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Pasta / Savory / Summer

Sometimes we must devour copious amounts of pasta tossed with tons of garlic and olive oil. And tons of tomatoes. Would you agree? Pasta is my thing!

In July I had the pleasure of being greeted by Gourmet Live for a feature. In it, I was asked to share a description of my “go-to” easy dinner. This recipe pretty much sums up my response.

With a plate of orecchiette like this, I’m methodic in heating the pan and watching the slivered garlic fry until shriveled in a pool of olive oil. These fun little ear shapes deserve a delicious pan sauce made from the oil, aromatics, seasonings, starchy pasta water, baby tomatoes, fresh herbs, greens, cheese, and lemon.


1/3-1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (so important it’s good quality, Koroneiki, Arbosana, or Arbequina olive varietals are excellent)
1 bulb garlic, (about 6-7 large cloves) thinly sliced
1/2 tablespoon crushed red chili pepper flakes
2-3 pints cherry tomatoes, halved, if small enough leave whole
1 – 1/2 tablespoon Kosher salt
1/2-3/4 pound orecchiette pasta
1/2 cup salted pasta water
3/4 cup parmigiano-reggiano cheese, grated
5 heaping cups arugula
Zest of 1/2 lemon
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Fresh basil leaves, for topping
1 lemon, for serving
Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
Parmigiano Regianno for sprinkling

Bring a large pot of moderately salted water to a boil.In a large sauté pan on medium-high heat, add the olive oil and let heat until it’s shimmering in the pan. Add the sliced garlic and fry until the pieces begin to cook through and shrivel around the edges. Just before they are about to brown, act quick, and add sliced cherry tomatoes to the pan. – You want to hear the greatest sizzling sound of your life. Next, give mixture a toss, ensuring the hot garlic oil is adhering to and frying tomatoes. Next, add crushed red pepper flakes (optional) and let simmer on low for about 4-6 minutes.

In the meantime, once pot of salted water is at a full rolling boil, drop in the orecchiette pasta and cook for about 7-8 minutes until al dente. Remove pasta from water and drop into pan of tomatoes and garlic. On low to medium heat, toss until pasta has been evenly coated. Add pasta water to mixture, this will help the sauce emulsify and loosen up while adhering to the pasta. Next, add 1/2 cup of parmigiano-reggiano cheese and stir. Sauce should be truly emulsified with cheese addition. Take sauté pan off heat, and gently fold in 1/2 bunch of arugula, it should just slightly melt and wilt against pasta. Add lemon zest and stir. Taste for seasonings, adjusting salt, pepper, and zest. Portion out pasta on plates, ensuring equal parts tomato and orecchiette.

Garnish each dish with the remaining arugula and cheese, fresh basil leaves, add a splash of lemon juice over greens if desired, and finish with a light drizzle of olive oil.



  1. I will always go for pasta, and I love that last photo of the generous heaping of tomatoes and arugula atop the orecchiette! Here in Colorado, I get the feeling this may be the last weekend for tomatoes at the farmer’s market, so I picked up as many as I could carry. :)

  2. londonbakes says

    I completely adore the way you write recipes, I feel like I’m there with you watching you cook and greedily waiting to dive into a bowl of this pasta. Love.

  3. On a trip to Puglia a couple of years ago I ate orechiette practically every day – they serve it with grated salted hard ricotta which is absolutely heavenly. Rocket also featured heavily, as it does in your recipe, which looks utterly incredible. Like Kathryn says, I feel like I’m right there in the kitchen with you.

    • Sounds like it was a fabulous trip. Man. You’re right about that, I adore ricotta salata also-heaven. It’s amazing with eggplant, Pasta Alla Norma! Thanks.

  4. Kate says

    Good gracious, that’s beautiful pasta. I want to dive in with a fork. Hope you’re doing well, Miss Sarah B.

  5. Found your blog via Pinterest and couldn’t resist making this with the last of our market’s tomatoes. Thank you! It was delicious!! (And judging by my multiple helpings – very addictive.) Arugula was sold out so I bought some micro arugula (baby arugula shoots) which worked well, and were beautiful. Can’t wait to make this again next year!

  6. Bergie Bandy says

    I never cook hubby does it all. Tonight I prepared this beautiful dish. My personal gourmet chef LOVED it. I did get a bit behind thinking the pasta would be quicker. I purchased a very good quality from Italy it took approximately 35 minutes to cook. Having said that the results were fairly impressive. The paring of lemon, arugula, basil and a dash of red pepper flakes (home grown N Mexico 64) a great meal!!!! Loved it and really pleasing to look at.

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  9. Chelsea says

    This recipe has become one of my staples – I’m totally obsessed. I’ve modified it a bit to make it spicy with crushed red pepper flakes and a heaping spoonful of ricotta cheese on top. AMAZING.

  10. This recipe has become one of my staples – I and all my friends just love it. I’ve modified it a bit to add a heaping pile of ricotta cheese to balance out the spice – AMAZING. Thank you a million times over!

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