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Inspired by her childhood in the Azores, Maria Moreira crafts a one-of-a-kind Portugese Cheese at her farm in Lancaster

Rigatoni topped with cherry tomatoes and sizzled fresh Portuguese cheese

Since this fresh cheese is quite soft and wet, you should drain it slightly (to firm it up) before it is sauteed. If you choose not to drain it, just be careful when turning it over in the pan so as not to break it apart.

1/2 (12-ounce) round fresh Portuguese cheese
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups ripe cherry tomatoes (about 2 pounds), rinsed and stemmed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 pound rigatoni
1/2 cup fresh chopped basil
1/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs

Place the cheese in a cheesecloth-lined strainer over a bowl. Drape the cheesecloth over the cheese (to protect it) and place in the refrigerator. Let the cheese drain for several hours or overnight.

Place 1 tablespoon of the oil in a medium-sized nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the cherry tomatoes, a few pinches of salt, and several grinds of pepper. Saute for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for 5 minutes more.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the rigatoni until al dente. Drain and add to the tomatoes, along with the basil. Toss, breaking up some of the tomatoes as you mix. Season with salt and pepper to taste and keep warm.

Cut the cheese into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Cut each slice into bite-sized pieces. Place the bread crumbs on a plate and coat the cheese with the crumbs. Place the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the cheese and sizzle for 5 minutes on each side, or until golden. (Instead of a metal spatula, try using 2 forks to turn the cheese over in the pan.) Divide the pasta among 4 plates and top with the sizzled cheese.

Serves 4.

By Victoria Abbott Riccardi, Globe Correspondent

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