Monday, July 22, 2013

Pasta alla Checca with Arugula and Ricotta Salata

Pasta Alla Checca

Pasta alla Checca is a light fresh dish that’s perfect for summer because the pasta is dressed with uncooked ingredients.  Classic pasta alla cecca is usually made with diced tomatoes, basil, fresh mozzarella, garlic and olive oil.  In my version I’ve used peppery arugula to stand in for the basil and ricotta salata in place of the mozzarella.  And I actually made the cheese myself.  Here's a link to my cheese making tutorial. 

During the cheese making process I used lemon juice to form the curds, some recipes called for vinegar but I thought the lemon might impart a better flavor.  I also rolled the cheese in a mixture of lemon zest, herbs and salt.  After a few days in the fridge it had a texture like feta but a milder lemony ricotta flavor.  What a delicious result.      

Pasta alla Checca with Arugula and Ricotta Salata
Prep time: 5 min
Cook time: 10-12 min

  • 8 oz gluten free pasta, cooked according to the package
  • 3-4 oz ricotta salata or feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cups arugula, rinsed
  • 2 scallions
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper to taste

Video Tutorial: 

  1. In a bowl that’s large enough to house the finished product add 3 or 4 tablespoons of olive oil.
  2. Using a microplane grate in one clove of garlic and the zest of the lemon then squeeze in the lemon juice.
  3. Add some salt pepper and crushed red pepper flakes to taste. 
  4. Chop the scallions into ¼ inch pieces and add them to the bowl.
  5. Add the grape tomatoes and arugula and toss the ingredient together then set aside while you prepare the pasta according to the package instructions.
  6. Once the pasta is cooked, drain it then add the hot pasta to the bowl with the other ingredients but be sure to reserve a little bit of the pasta water just encase the dish looks too dry.
  7. Add the crumbled ricotta salata, mix it all together, and serve.  Optionally you can add some grated pecorino romano to the hot pasta too if you want an even saltier bite in the finished dish.  

In the classic preparation of this dish, spaghetti is typically used but I thought that the fusilli would be nice in this one because they mirror the size and shape of the arugula.  Plus if you want to serve this at a picnic or barbeque this shape is much easier to serve.

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