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!
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.
GARLIC FRIED TOMATO ORECCHIETTE WITH ARUGULA // Serves 4
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
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.