Rather than pounding the herbs and spices in a mortar and pestle, you could also grind everything together in a food processor, adding a little water as necessary to mix everything together. You can also substitute the fresh mozzarella with grated part-skim mozzarella if you’d like a less gooey dish with browned cheese.
- 1 teaspoon dry basil
- 15 black peppercorns
- ½ teaspoon dry oregano
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 3-4 whole garlic cloves, peeled
- ¼ cup parsley, rinsed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons red wine, divided
- 2 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes, drained, juice reserved
- 1 pound ziti or penne
- ⅓ cup milk
- 1 ounce grated Parmesan cheese (about ¼ cup)
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced into thin rounds
In a mortar and pestle, grind together basil, peppercorns, oregano, salt, and red pepper flakes. Add garlic cloves and pound until garlic is mashed. Add parsley and olive oil and pound into a rough paste, scraping the sides as needed (if you’re having difficulties forming a paste, try adding a tablespoon or two of water). Add paste and 1 tablespoon red wine to an ovenproof nonstick skillet and heat over medium heat. Once it begins to sizzle, begin stirring, and fry the paste for 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes to the skillet and increase heat to medium high. Fry tomatoes for 5 to 7 minutes, or until all the water has cooked out.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Once you’ve cooked the water out of the tomatoes, add reserved tomato juice, 3 cups water, and ziti to the skillet and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Remove the skillet from heat and taste the sauce, adding salt as necessary. Add milk, Parmesan, and 1 tablespoon red wine and toss the pasta until the dairy and wine is well-incorporated. Top pasta with mozzarella.
Put the skillet in the oven and bake for 12 minutes, rotating the skillet halfway through. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.