This baked spaghetti recipe - which I very nearly named One melted over the spaghetti nest - combines pasta puttanesca-style saltiness with luscious melted burrata cheese. As such it's the very definition of a tasty treat.
It's quite strange how these twirled spaghetti nests dropped into my lap; like there was no way I could have escaped this recipe's olivey delights.
My mamma-in-law Marisa first came up with this nidi di spaghetti alla burrata dish by creatively adapting traditional pasta puttanesca, twirling its spaghetti into nests (called nidi in Italian) and adding a blast of sumptuous molten burrata cheese (kind of a deluxe version of buffalo mozzarella). Then as she often does, Marisa rang this recipe through to us, we tried it out (someone has to do this work!) and we wrote it up for this site.
The next day however a TV channel that Marisa watches - called La 7 - actually featured the same recipe in one of their cooking segments. They called this dish Nidi di spaghetti al gratin (watch their video overview in Italian here).
So even without her inspiration, it's almost certain Marisa would have put us onto this delicious dish.
Why should you try it?
Well if you enjoy the salty flavors of olives and capers, you'll probably already know the joys of that 'dish of the night', pasta puttanesca.
This version makes it better, adding glorious burrata cheese to the mix, the satisfying crunch of toasted breadcrumbs, and of course those shapely towers of spaghetti noodles.
In case you never heard of burrata, this cheese is to standard buffalo mozzarella what a Rolls Royce is to a Honda Civic. I'm no cheese addict nor expert, but even I can tell that there's simply no comparison taste-wise, so be sure to try your local Italian delicatessen to track this cheese down or order it if you can. You'll be glad you did.
This white wonder sits atop your salty spaghetti nests and, after 5 minutes in the oven, simply melts and tumbles down the sides of the nests. To sum up, it's about as decadent as homemade pasta gets.
120g/4.3oz Italian 'burrata' cheese (or buffalo mozzarella)
1 tablespoon (25g/.8oz) capers (in salt, not vinegar)
15 black olives
400g/14oz can of plum tomatoes
Handful of fresh basil leaves (rinsed)
Parmesan cheese (to grate)
2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs
Extra virgin olive oil
Glug of red wine
STEP 1 - First some quick prepatation.
- Chop the olives long-ways, remove the pips, and roughly chop the remaining flesh.
- Rinse the capers to remove all the salt (use a sieve under the tap or stand capers in a bowl of hot water for a minute then drain).
- Soak the burrata/mozzarella (still in the bag) in a bowl of hot tap water for 5 minutes. This nicely softens the cheese.
STEP 2 - Now we'll cook up our puttanesca-style sauce, which will coat the spaghetti.
- Cover half the base of a large frying pan in a light layer of olive oil and pop on a medium heat hob.
- Throw olive chunks, rinsed capers and torn basil leaves into the pan.
- With the oil hot (smoking or spitting is too hot!), fry gently for 2-3 mins until the capers slightly wilt/shrink.
(If you have a little red wine, add 3-4 tablespoons while frying the capers for an even sturdier flavored sauce.)
STEP 3 - Now open the can of tomatoes and use a fork to drop these into the frying pan too.
(We don't need the can's liquid as we're not strictly making a tomato sauce - it's the olives that rule this roost!)
- Add one pinch of salt for each tomato (or a small pinch of rock salt for each tom from the caper jar).
- Cover the pan for 3-4 mins, on the same medium heat, to soften the toms.
- Once soft, break up the toms with a spoon, uncover and fry gently on a slightly lower heat for 15-20 minutes, until the oily tomato sauce is thick and loses any sour taste.
Sauce still a little sour after 20 mins? Add a sprinkle of sugar or a teaspoon of milk. Either will cancel out any remaining sourness.
- When done, take the sauce off the heat.
STEP 4 - Now cook the spaghetti. You can do this while the sauce cooks if you fancy multitasking to save some time.
- Bring a large pan of well-salted water to the boil then drop in the spaghetti.
- Add a small drop of olive oil too to prevent sticking.
- Cook, stirring regularly, as per the packet's timings (start your timer when the water reaches the boil again).
- When cooked, drain well.
- Pop the sauce back on a low heat and stir through the spaghetti for a minute or so, coating each strange in that salty sauce.
STEP 5 - Now we'll make the nests and pop these to bake.
- Use a little sauce from the spaghetti's pan to 'stain' (very lightly cover) the bottom of a large baking dish (I use our 4-serving lasagna dish).
- Grab a full forkful of spaghetti and use a ladel or large soup spoon to twirl this into a nest shape. Then carefully place in the baking dish.
Here's how to twirl the spaghetti...
- Make more nests until all the spaghetti is used up, spooning any remaining sauce on top of each nest.
- Chop the burrata into inch-square (2.5cm) chunks and place one on top of each spaghetti nest.
- Finally, sprinkle the breadcrumbs evenly over the nests and grate over a little parmesan too.
STEP 6 - Pop your dish under a hot grill or pre-heated 180C/350F oven (we prefer the grill setting, but not too close!) and cook for just 5-6 mins. This melts the cheese and nicely toasts the breadcrumbs.
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