Friday, February 11, 2005
THE INFAMOUS BRIE PASTA
This is my favorite of all recipes, and if you know me for any length of time, chances are good that I’ll make it for you. It’s a perfect meal for entertaining, because it’s really really super easy: there are only a few ingredients, you can mix most of them together ahead of time, and only one of them has to be cooked. At the same time, because it involves Brie, it is also really really super rich and decadent, and thus is best enjoyed only with friends, for extra special occasions. The price of a pound of Brie being what it is, it’s probably better that way. Once per year is just about right (preferably in the summer, when you can find awesome tomatoes). In fact, I think the last time I made Brie pasta was a year ago, when I had L, J, E, and N over for dinner in my tiny basement apartment on Portland Ave. in St. Paul. On Tuesday night, I had A, M, and K over for dinner to watch the finale of The Amazing Race, so I figured it was time to work the Brie mojo again. I found nicely affordable Canadian (it’s almost French!) Brie at Trader Joe’s, and decent tomatoes (for this time of year) at the farmers’ market, and voila!
Do I even have to describe what this tastes like? The compatability of pasta, tomatoes, basil, garlic, and olive oil is already well established. To this you add Brie, which gets all melty, like the best kind of cream sauce, and cheesy, like the best kind of macaroni and cheese. ’Nuff said. The funny thing is that I got this recipe from a little photocopied dorm newsletter when I was in college. It was just squished in there among announcements of campus events and reminders to renew parking permits. I often wonder where the newsletter writer found it in the first place—I’ve even Googled “Tomato Basil Brie Pasta” and found some similar recipes, but one of them had red wine vinegar in it (no way), and the other called for 2 cups (!!!!) of oil (gack…can that possibly be right?), and both asked for Parmesan cheese, which is totally unnecessary when you have—did I mention?—a pound of Brie. Let’s just call it happy chance that I found this recipe, and even happier chance that I’m passing it on to you.
1 pound farfalle (bow-tie) pasta
1 pound Brie cheese
4 large, fresh, ripe tomatoes
1 large handful of fresh basil
1/3 cup olive oil
2-4 cloves garlic
salt and pepper to taste
1. Remove the rind from the Brie (I know some people like the rind, but don’t try to use it here—it will ruin the texture) and cut the cheese into small chunks (they don’t have to be perfect, since they will melt anyway, but for ease in melting, don’t make them much larger than an inch). Put these in a large glass bowl (make sure you don’t use a metallic bowl, or you will taste it).
2. Mince the garlic. Keep in mind, the garlic stays raw in this recipe, so if you want to use less than 4 cloves, go ahead (this is the only time you will ever hear me say this). If the garlic is too potent, it will overwhelm the taste of the Brie. Shred the basil and add both it and the garlic to the bowl.
3. Seed and core the tomatoes and chop them into 1-inch chunks, and add them to the bowl. Also add the oil, and salt and pepper to taste.
4. The recipe says to let the mixture marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, but this can be skipped if you’re really hungry. Sometimes I just make it and eat it right away; other times, I’ve let it marinate longer than 2 hours. On this occasion, I probably did it for about an hour. It’s good no matter what, although I think the leftovers taste even better because the flavors have had more time to blend.
5. When it's near time to eat, boil salted water for the pasta and cook it until al dente. Drain the pasta and return it to the cooking pot, then add the tomato-cheese mixture and stir gently. (The pasta makes an earthy squishing sound during this process that I enjoy immensely.) Eventually, the heat of the pasta melts the Brie into a smooth, creamy sauce. Added more salt and pepper and serve (good with a green salad on the side).
Time: 30 minutes (plus optional 2-hour marinating time)