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Orecchiette Pasta Fresh Tomato Sauce and Poor Man’s Parmesan

Rustic uncomplicated Italian food at its best. The warm weather provides us with sweet tomatoes an basil to make this dish full of sunshine.

January 29, 2018

Orecchiette Pasta Fresh Tomato Sauce and Poor Man’s Parmesan

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ingredients for four
250gm orecchiette
fresh tomato sauce
400gm cherry or baby roma tomatoes
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
150gm onion
½ to 1 tsp salt
about 150ml water
2Tbsp roughly chopped basil leaves
12 x baby bocconcini
fried crumbs (poor mans parmesan)
80gm fine breadcrumbs
1½Tbsp extra virgin olive oil


  1. Bring a large pan of well salted water to a rolling boil. Add pasta and time for 12 minutes, or according to instructions on packet until tender but firm to the tooth ‘al dente’.
  2. Drain and replace into warm pan.
  3. While pasta is cooking, prepare components for fresh tomato sauce. Peel and finely chop onion. Place large frying pan over medium high heat. When hot, fry onion in olive oil for 5 minutes, until lightly golden.
  4. Cut cherry tomatoes in half or quarters if large.  Add tomatoes to pan, season with salt. Add water to moisten. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes or until the tomatoes start to collapse, stirring occasionally.
  5. Check for seasoning, this sauce requires a bit of salt due to the sweetness (and sometimes slightly bitter) tomatoes. Remove pan from heat.
  6. Prepare fried crumbs. Place torn bread, including pieces of crust in food processor bowl. Process to make fine crumbs.
  7. Place medium frying pan over medium heat. When hot, add oil. Tip in breadcrumbs and stir to absorb oil. Fry, moving occasionally for about 5 minutes, until golden brown and crunchy. Remove from pan and set aside.
  8. Add roughly chopped basil leaves and baby bocconcini, each torn into about 4 pieces to sauce. Pour sauce over pasta in warm saucepan and stir through.
  9. Serve pasta and tomato sauce scattered with Poor Man’s Parmesan fried crumbs.

cooks notes:

  • I was taught this recipe by my friend Simona Archieri who is a fabulous Italian cook and all round lovely gal. We happily worked together for a number of years teaching at Matters of Taste and Simona was generous in sharing her talents and recipes with us. Thanks Simona x
  • Poor mans parmesan was used originally in southern italy when Parmesan was not available Italy or it was simply too expensive for the ‘poor’ to indulge in. This rustic dish fits the bill perfectly. Of course the pasta would have been homemade and you are welcome to make your own too!
  • We used Barilla Orecchiette in this recipe. This shape resembles ‘little ears’ and the cups are perfect for holding the sauce. Any small pasta shape would work if Orecchiette not available.
  • I have added some bocconcini as I love the stringiness that the semi melting cheese adds to the dish. This is optional.
  • Purchase the best flavoured tomatoes and basil with small leaves. Basil’s flavour tends to be quite overpowering as the leaves become bigger.
  • Use super-fresh olive oil for this too. I suggest you buy a well-known and good quality Australian brand for the best freshest flavour and no trace of rancidity.

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Meet the team

Tracey Cotterell

Tracey Cotterell
Tracey Cotterell


Tracey has been in the food industry since completing her Diploma in Hotel, Catering and Institutional Management in 1982 in the UK. She worked for an outside catering company in London, then joined her parents in rural West Sussex running

View Tracey’s full profile.

Tracey Cotterell

Tracey Cotterell


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