Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Toasted Garlic, Tomato and Arugula Orecchiette

Tomato season is just about ready to get started around here. Are you ready?

By the end of the summer, we always have piles of tomatoes from the farm sitting around, so I start putting ad hoc tomato sauces on everything. But this dish isn't your run-of-the-mill pasta-and-sauce combo. It's just as easy (if not easier!) than the cherry tomato sauces I usually make, but the flavors are more focused. Toasting the garlic in the oil at the beginning lends a deep garlic flavor to the whole dish. A huge pile of ripe cherry tomatoes makes for a delightfully sweet sauce. Stirring in plenty of arugula at the end adds a peppery zing that makes this dish stand out.

Arugula season may be on the way out (most of mine has bolted by now), but I think this dish would work well with other greens, too. While spinach and chard lack the pepperiness of arugula, they would lend a lovely earthy note to the sweet tomatoes. And you can always add a little zingy black pepper at the end.

Toasted Garlic, Tomato and Arugula Orecchiette
Adapted from Lemon Fire Brigade

1/4 c olive oil
6-7 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
3 c grape tomatoes, halved
3/4 lb orecchiette pasta
1/2 c reserved pasta water
3/4 c Parmesan cheese, shredded
8 c arugula
zest of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions, reserving 1/2 c pasta water.

In a large saute pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic slices and cook, stirring, until the edges begin to get golden and toasted. 

Add the tomatoes to the pan and stir well, coating the them in the garlicky oil. Add the red pepper flakes and simmer on low for about 5 minutes, until it takes on a loose saucy consistency.

Add the pasta to the pan and stir to coat with the sauce. Add some of the reserved pasta water, if necessary, to loosen the sauce up (I often find that enough water is still clinging to the pasta that I don't need my reserved water at all). Grate Parmesan over the top and stir to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper, if necessary.

Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon zest and arugula (my skillet wasn't big enough, so I transferred the whole mixture to a mixing bowl for this part). Enjoy!

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