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Saturday, 9 July 2011

Orecchiette Pasta with Tomatoes, Olives and Rocket

We could call this the offspring of a peppery bowl of rocket salad and a tomato sauce pasta dish, who met on a warm summer evening and produced this tasty supper :-) There are so few ingredients here, you need the best tomatoes, olives and rocket you can find, as they all have to contribute with intense, bold flavours. I chose orecchiette (a pasta shape typical from the Puglia region in Italy, which translates as "little ears") because their concave conformation is ideal to receive this thick sauce, and keep it in their little pockets, ready to explode in your mouth.

INGREDIENTS (for two people)
  • 80 gr of dry orecchiette
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes (I like Waitrose Organic)
  • 1 bag of organic rocket (ready washed in spring water, if not wash it and dry it yourself)
  • Half a jar of pitted, good quality kalamata olives
  • Two handful of freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • A small white onion, finely chopped
  • One clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • One tablespoon of parsely, finely chopped
  • 3 leaves of fresh basil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Sea salt
Put a generous glug of olive oil in a non-stick pan and gently fry the onion, garlic and parsley at low heat, until they are soft and translucent. Add the tomatoes and turn the heat on at its maximum setting, then add the olives and the basil leaves. Let the sauce bubble away and reduce until the excess water has evaporated and it has reached a thick, glossy consistency. Turn the heating off, season with salt and pepper, fish out the basil leaves, cover with a lid and leave it to rest.
Cook the orecchiette in plenty of boiling, salted water as per the packet instructions. When ready and still al dente, drain them and reserve a little of the cooking water. Bring the pan with the sauce back on the hob at full heat, and sauté the orecchiette in the sauce, using a few tablespoons of the cooking water to ensure the pasta is nicely coated. Next, add the parmesan and stir thoroughly to melt it and once again evenly coat the orecchiette. Finally, switch off the hob and stir in the rocket, leaving a few leaves aside to garnish your finished dish. You need to do this off the heat as you want the rocket to wilt slightly but still retain some bite, not cook through and become limp.
Serve immediately with some of the fresh rocket on top, drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil.

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