What I will do is talk about the countryside in which they are grown... For is is because of the Vesuvius eruption of 79 CE, the geological even of which Pliney wrote of, which destroyed Pompeii as well as Herculaneum and half of Naples, that we have these effervescent tomatoes, today. That particular eruption dumped anywhere from 8 to 66 feet of ash for 80 miles in all directions. Most importantly, at least for tomatoes, was that this included what is now the province of Salerno in south coastal Campania. The high volcanic content of the soil is largly responsible for producing such astounding tomatoes.
A testament to the old adage - When life gives you a pyroclastic flow, make tomato sauce. Um, yeah, or something like that, anyway.
Sadly, in my quest for one of my favorite pasta dishes (Yeah I know, I have a lot of those, don't I?) I was sorely lacking two of the key ingredients; San Marzanos and Mozzarella di Bufala. This was primarily due to poor planning on my part. OK, and laziness, since I did not want to drive all the way to New Seasons out in Damascus for tomatoes or down to Trader Joe's on 39th and Woodstock for Mozzarella (The TJ's on 82nd keeps telling me it's out of season even though the 39th street store keeps getting it in; stupid heads)
So I raided the cupboard and found Fire Roasted Tomatoes, which worked surprisingly well, I must say.
I also had cow milk mozzarella in Perlini form (that's really small or pearl sized)
So armed with these two ingredients I embarked upon a pasta dish from the foot of Mt. Vesuvio. Oh, and No ash, pumice or basalt was used, came near, or was injured in the making of this dish. ;)
Campanelle alla Vesuviana
1/2 cup (118 ml) Extra Virgin Olive oil
2 - 3 Cloves Garlic; minced fine
1 - 1 1/2 tsp Red Pepper Flake (I like a little fire going on)
29 oz (822 g) (2-14.5 oz cans) Diced Fire Roasted Tomatoes (but preferably San Marzanos)
1 TB Dried Basil (or 3 TB Fresh, chopped)
1 TB Dried Parsley (or 3 TB Fresh, chopped)
1 tsp Dried Mint (or 1 TB Fresh, chopped)
8 oz (226g) Fresh Mozzarella; perlini (preferably Mozzarella di Bufala, diced)
1 oz (28 g) Pecorino Romano, grated
1 lb Campanelle or Fusilli or even Radiatori
Heat olive oil in a sauce pan over medium heat and add finely minced garlic and red pepper flake, cooking until the garlic just begins to brown.
Add Tomatoes and a pinch or two of kosher salt and reduce heat to a simmer.
Add Basil, Parsley and Mint; simmer for about 15 minutes.
Cook pasta according to package directions....
Drain the Mozzarella and set aside.
Drain pasta, reserving 1/4 cup of the liquid, just in case.
Place pasta in a warm bowl, then add the tomato mixture ....
and toss it well.....
Add the Mozzarella perlini and the Pecorino Romano.
Serve with extra Romano...
Though I like mine plain.... Delectable!
I love the way the mozzarella begins to melt and get all kinds of gooey, releasing it's liquid to bring a milky flavor to the dish that cools the heat of the red pepper flake and takes the edge off the acidity of the tomato. It's awesome!