Pasta alla telefono

The story behind this recipe is quite interesting actually. My friend B had come to visit me and promised to cook me a nice dinner so we went to the store and bought groceries. I had no idea what he was making, but it sure did look and smell good. I watched B run around the kitchen, flitting around and whisking things together, and I waited with bated breath to see what was going to turn up. He declared his creation Pasta alla telefono but I was never able to find that recipe or that name anywhere else. The thing is, it was so good that it didn’t really matter, and after a few tries, I think I got it to taste the way his did. This recipe is one of those where the quality of the ingredients really matters. The taste you get when you put together fresh basil, torn straight from the plant, with vine-ripened tomatoes from the farmer’s market, and the piece de resistance, bufala mozzarella, fresh balls of creamy mozzarella cheese made of water buffalo milk – these are what make this recipe taste out of this world.


One package penne pasta
8-10 vine-ripened cluster tomatoes, blanched and deseeded
2-3 tablespoons of chili flakes (depends on how spicy you like your pasta) 
1 teaspoon oregano
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon sugar
lemon zest
a splash of olive oil
veggies for the sauce, like mushrooms, zucchini, bell peppers, spinach – whatever you like
1 cup of torn or coarsely chopped basil leaves


1. Set the pasta to cook with some olive oil and salt.

2. Chop the tomatoes into small pieces. You can blanch and seed the tomatoes first if you don’t like skin or seeds in your sauce. Toss the tomatoes into a pot and let them simmer for a bit with some salt and whatever spices you like. 

3. Brown the garlic along with onions, if you want to add them, in a separate skillet. If you like garlic pieces in your sauce, cook them in a little oil and dump the whole thing in. If you don’t like getting chunks of garlic in your food, cook it in about a tablespoon or a little more of oil, and drain the pieces out after they’ve cooked. 

4. Add the oil from the garlic and whatever other veggies you want to use into the tomatoes. Let it all simmer together for a while, until everything has cooked thoroughly and the flavor has percolated through.

5. Add the lemon zest, basil and the sugar and stir, and let it simmer for another 2 minutes.

6. Toss the pasta in with everything and keep it on the heat for about 2 minutes longer.

7. Slice the mozzarella and stir it into the pasta just until it gets stringy. If you stir longer, you’ll end up with a creamy sauce rather than stringy cheese (I personally like my mozzarella to make threads in my food – it’s fun!). 

8. Serve with garlic bread, and enjoy!

Another way to do this is to just use store-bought sauce. But make sure that you simmer the sauce with the crushed red peppers, and that you stir in the cheese at the end. That’s what makes this recipe killer. Thanks for this recipe, B, even though you never wanted to share it. If it’s any consolation, I was never able to make it quite like you. But I still think this is pretty amazing. Enjoy, folks! And as always, share any ideas you might have.



3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. rozkakhana
    Jun 17, 2008 @ 23:03:15 are on a roll this week. Two recipes in two days! Awesome. Keep up that great cooking. The pasta sounds dee-lish! Will try it and let you know.


  2. judithgr
    Jun 19, 2008 @ 01:41:51

    Hi! It’s called al telefono because the mozzarella stretches out and forms cords/wires! Cute huh? There are several mozzarella dishes called al telefono.


  3. NG
    Jun 19, 2008 @ 08:17:27

    Hey! Thanks so much! I guess you learn something new every day:)


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