Farfalle with Pearlini and Tomatoes

Summertime is not my favorite time for cooking elaborate meals. My under-air-conditioned kitchen gets seriously hot, and while I can take it, strangely enough, my family seems less enthusiastic. Experience has taught me that they'd rather eat a bowl of cold cereal than sweat through a roast and mashed potatoes. So, I rely on lots of fresh vegetables, herbs, and ingredients that don't need a lot of heat to prepare. This pasta dish is one of my favorites this year.

This meal comes together so quickly, once your pasta water comes to a boil, you can have it on the table in 15 minutes. It makes use of one of my new absolute favorite ingredients: fresh mozzarella pearlini. I. Love. This. Stuff. I literally daydream about it, thinking about the salad I'm having for lunch, studded with gleaming white pebbles of deliciousness, concocting recipes to use up the industrial-size containers I've managed to find ~ joy! ~ at my local warehouse club.

Although I was really, really hoping to have some homegrown tomatoes at this point in the season, so far I'm still waiting. My two St. Nicholas grape tomato plants (my favorite all-purpose tomato for culinary use) are loaded down with bright green fruit and yellow blossoms, each plant now a good foot taller than me. But not a single tomato is ripe enough to eat yet. It's rained nearly every day since . . . since at least the beginning of June. We've had sun, true, but just not enough to get some color into those tomato cheeks. So, I buy locally grown tomatoes, or open up a can of petite diced tomatoes. Both will work just fine.

My basil, on the other hand, is flourishing this year. Last year, a phalanx of snails devoured the entire crop. This year, I put my plants in a sunnier spot, surrounded them with marigolds, and no slug damage yet. I like to throw in some black olives, but you can leave them out if your prefer. In my opinion, the star of this dish really is the pearlini ~ miniature balls of fresh mozzarella no bigger than blueberries. I have a vegetarian at my table, so this dish relies on the pearlini for protein. If you like, though, feel free to toss in some sauteed or grilled shrimp or scallops. Use good-quality olive oil for the best flavor. As far as the pasta shapes, I like orecchiette or farfalle, but any ruffled or flattish shape would do just fine. In a pinch, I'd use linguine too.

Faralle with Pearlini and Tomatoes
  • 1/2 pound farfalle (I like Barilla's Piccolini pasta line)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups diced tomatoes with juice (fresh or canned)
  • 1/4 cup pitted black olives
  • 4 tablespoons chiffonade-cut fresh basil, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup pearlini
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, for garnish
  1. Cook farfalle according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a large saucepan or deep skillet over medium heat. Saute minced garlic in olive oil till just golden. Carefully add tomatoes and juice, stirring to combine. Lower heat to medium-low and let tomatoes simmer for about 5 minutes. Stir in olives and 3 tablespoons basil. Let simmer for an additional minutes; season with salt and pepper.
  2. Drain pasta and add to tomato mixture; remove from heat. Sprinkle pearlini over pasta and toss to mix. Cover and let stand 5 minutes to melt pearlini slightly. Divide pasta among 4 serving bowls and sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon of Parmesan cheese and some basil. Serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Recipe Notes:
  • Don't worry if you can't find pearlini. Use bocconcini, halved, or just dice up a block of fresh mozzarella
  • Be careful not to melt the pearlini all the way. It will still taste fine, but it's charming to serve the dish with the little mozzarella nuggets visible among the pasta.


  1. I adore pearlinni too! I found them not too long ago and added them to a pasta salad. I love this dish... quick and easy for a summer evening, and filled with ingredients I already have on hand!

  2. wow. This is something I would totally love. Thanks for sharing.

  3. My tomato plants are all green but I did notice a couple starting to change with the recent heat wave. Although I got hammered with blight fungus so I have been fighting those.

    Oh yeah last weekend for me was proof I have no desire to be working in a hot kitchen. 90 degrees trying to can pickles, caramelize onions for focaccia, and bake focaccia put my kitchen in the high 90s in temp. Was all worth it in the end but man was it hot.

    Awesome dish!

  4. I've never seen perlini's! But, somehow I know my life will never be the same. That looks like a fantastic dish. I hate being stuck in the kitchen too in the summer. Just too dang hot! Love this dish. Best, Emily


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