In Puglia, cavatelli or strascinate would be the stars of this delightful dish, dressed with ripe cherry tomatoes quickly softened in the skillet, and a heap of tangy arugula, tossed into the pot to cook with the pasta. Artisan-made pasta from Puglia is my preference but any good-quality cavatelli or orecchiette would be a fine substitute. In summer, when ripe sweet tomatoes and tender arugula are plentiful, this dish will always be delicious.
- 3 cups (about 1 pound) ripe cherry tomatoes or ripe plum tomatoes, rinsed
- 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt or to taste (and salt for the pasta pot)
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 plump garlic cloves, sliced
- ¼ teaspoon peperoncino or to taste
- 1 pound cavatelli, strascinate, or orecchiette, preferably from Puglia
- 1 pound fresh, tender arugula, rinsed and drained
- ½ cup freshly grated Canestrato Pugliese or Pecorino Romano
Cut the cherry tomatoes in half or, if using plum tomatoes, cut them into ½-inch chunks, to have 3 cups of cut-up fresh tomato.
Start heating 6 quarts of water with 1 tablespoon of salt in a large pot.
In the big skillet, heat the ¼ cup olive oil, sliced garlic and peperoncino over medium-high heat, stirring, until the garlic is sizzling and starting to color. Pour in the cut tomatoes, season with a teaspoon salt and bring to a bubbling simmer. Cook, stirring frequently, about 3 or 4 minutes, just until the tomatoes have softened a bit and the juices are slightly thickened. Turn off the heat.
When the pasta water is boiling, stir in the cavatelli or other pasta. Return to the boil and cook for 7 to 8 minutes (or 6 minutes less than time indicated on the package) then drop all the arugula into the pot. Stir well, cover, and bring the water back to the boil rapidly. Cook pasta and arugula together for 5 minutes or until the pasta is nearly al dente.
Meanwhile bring the cut tomatoes in the skillet to a simmer. Lift out the pasta and cooked greens with a spider, drain for a moment then drop it into the skillet. Cook over high heat, tossing continuously, until the pan juices have thickened and nicely coat the pasta. Turn off the heat, sprinkle over the grated cheese and toss. Drizzle on more olive oil, toss, and serve immediately in warm bowls.