First of all, I want to take a moment to pause and thank all of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in defending our nation’s freedom. Mitte, Domine, operario in mensam tuam. Messis quidem multa, operarii autem pauci. Thank you.
On my last book-buying rampage at my local independent bookstore, I picked up a marked-down copy of a cookbook that is quickly becoming a part of my daily ritual. Italian Two Easy: Simple Recipes from the London River Cafe is a gorgeously photographed compilation of executive chefs Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers’ simplest Italian dishes. The menu at the LRC focuses on freshness and simplicity: rarely does a recipe in the book contain beyond six or seven ingredients. I pull this from my shelves on a nearly daily basis, usually just to look at the pictures. Tonight, though I know it’s probably blashphemous to do anything but barbecue on Memorial Day, I tried my own variation of one of the recipes. In the book, it’s called “Orcchiette, tomato, ricotta” (all recipes are named by their main ingredients), and instead of orcchiette pasta and basil, I substituted fusilli and baby arugula, respectively. I. Loved. It. The creamy cheese, tomato and arugula blend reminded me of one of the meals I ate when camping (yes, camping) in Rome during college. The site we stayed at had a small restaurant attached to the lounge. After a particularly exhausting day hiking back and forth across the city (we’d neglected to plot our site-seeing out and instead decided the wander method would be best. I lost a good pair of shoes that day to the Roman cobblestones…), we plopped down at a table and ordered a tableful of pasta. One dish that came out was a creamy ricotta or marscepone topped pappardelle with tomato sauce. Tonight, this recipe catapulted me immediately back to that table, back to the gallon of house wine, and back to our waiter’s (Vincenzo… at least that’s what I called him) brilliant gutteral laugh. The best meals are the ones that link you to moments of your past and bring them to live in your present.
Fusilli, Tomato, and Ricotta (serves 1)
3 small Roma tomatoes
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 small clove garlic
1/4 cup baby arugula
1/2 cup full-fat ricotta cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup fusilli pasta
1 tbsp freshly grated romano cheese
1) Chunk Roma tomatoes, drain juice and seeds. Chop baby arugula, finely mince garlic. Combine with tomatoes in a bowl, olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Set aside for at least 15 minutes to marinate.
2) Season ricotta with salt and pepper, set aside.
3) Bring salted water to a boil and prepare fusilli according to package instructions. Meanwhile, simmer tomato mixture over a low heat. Combine pasta and tomatoes. Mix in ricotta last. Serve with freshly grated romano cheese on top.