I don’t know when I first tasted arugula. Maybe it was in the early 90′s when fancy lettuces starting making appearances in restaurant salads. Whenever it was, it was a revelation for me. How could something so green taste so peppery? How could lettuce have so much flavor?
In the years since, I have learned to use arugula as much as possible in as many ways as possible. I love it in salads of course, but I also love it in pasta and on top of pizza. These days it seems that arugula comes in two varieties – baby leaves in a bag or large leaves in a bunch. I find the large leaves almost too peppery for a salad (unless it was paired with something sweet like beets) and the small leaves are too delicate for cooked dishes. If anyone out there knows of a medium arugula leaf, I’d sure like to hear about it.
I made this pasta dish the other night with some arugula that came in our CSA box. As I was making it, I wondered whether I would post about it. Is this the kind of thing that you really need a recipe for? Doesn’t it seem kind of obvious? I visit so many sites where the food is incredible and original and I wasn’t sure my humble pasta could keep up. But then I realized that sometimes we food bloggers can kind of live in a bubble. Just a few years ago, I would have needed a written recipe to make something this good. I couldn’t have come up with it on my own. The years I spent being a personal chef have made me a better, more adventurous, and creative cook. And having this CSA box come each week has been a big challenge. So here you go.
Pasta with Tomato Sauce and Arugula
Dana Treat Original
If you like your pasta saucy, use the 12 ounces of dried pasta suggested here. If you like it a little drier (or you have big eaters in your family), use a full pound.
2 large garlic cloves, minced
28 oz. can crushed Italian tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
Half a bunch of large arugula leaves, stems discarded and torn into roughly 2-inch pieces
2 small handfuls grated mozzarella cheese
12 oz. short pasta, such as rigatoni
Parmesan cheese, for garnish
Put a large skillet on the stove over medium heat. Add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom and then add the garlic. Stir constantly until starting to brown, then add the tomatoes (they will splatter a bit). Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and a few turns of pepper. Turn the heat down to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 20 minutes. Add the basil about halfway through the cooking time.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Using a large slotted spoon, transfer the cooked pasta to the skillet with the sauce. Add the arugula and mozzarella cheese then toss carefully toss everything together. You will want the noodles coated with sauce, the arugula to wilt, and the cheese to melt slightly. Serve in shallow bowls with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.