Tomatoes overflow the farmers market. I bought fresh organic San Marzano tomatoes with this pasta dish in mind.
I’m in the mood for rich and creamy so I’m mixing ricotta with the quick-cooked tomato sauce and serving it with giant dried pasta tubes.
The classic Neapolitan Paccheri con Ricotta e Salsa di Pomodoro is a late summer treat.
Paccheri means “slaps” in Italian. Gentle face slaps not hostile ones.
The fat tubes collapse on themselves. The pasta makes a slapping sound when picked up with a fork because of the creamy sauce trapped inside.
Paccheri are a big mouthful of pasta so you need a sauce that will hold up to them. This one fits the bill.
I usually just add basil to a quick-cooked fresh summer tomato sauce. But I remembered that sometimes my Mom added oregano to her tomato-basil sauce so I did too.
The mellow creamy ricotta-tomato sauce coats the fat pasta inside and out. Add a dollop of the tomato sauce on top. The fresh basil and oregano shine behind the sweet tomatoes. The freshly ground black pepper lightly tingles your tongue. You won’t believe the flavor wallop from so few ingredients quickly cooked.
If you can’t find paccheri use rigatoni, ziti or penne instead. If you can’t find San Marzano tomatoes use the ripest tomatoes available in your market. In a pinch use a 28-ounce can of imported San Marzano tomatoes.
- 1 pound or 500 grams dried paccheri or your favorite imported tube pasta
- 1 pound fresh San Marzano tomatoes or the ripest summer tomatoes available in your market (or in a pinch a 28-ounce can of imported San Marzano tomatoes)
- 1 large sprig fresh basil, plus more for garnish
- 2 sprigs fresh oregano, plus more for garnish
- 2 garlic cloves, smashed
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 cup whole milk ricotta
- ½ cup freshly grated pecorino
- Put a big pot of well-salted pasta water over high heat and bring to a boil.
- Make an “X” in the top of each tomato. Put the tomatoes in the hot pasta water until the skin begins to blister, about 30 seconds.
- Remove the tomatoes to a bowl and when they are cool enough to handle peel off the skin.
- Pass the tomatoes through a food mill to form a smooth sauce. Or finely chop the tomatoes for a chunkier sauce.
- In a sauce pan over medium-high heat add the olive oil and the garlic. Cook until the garlic becomes translucent.
- Add the tomatoes to the sauce pan along with the basil and oregano sprigs.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low.
- Stirring occasionally cook the sauce until most of the tomato water is evaporated, about 15-20 minutes.
- Combine the ricotta and the grated pecorino in a large bowl and mix them well with a fork.
- When the pasta water is at a vigorous boil throw in the pasta. Follow the instructions and cook the pasta until al dente. Before draining the pasta reserve a ½ cup of the pasta cooking water.
- Pour about half of the hot tomato sauce into the cheese mixture in the bowl. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of the reserved pasta water. Stir well.
- Keep the remainder of the tomato sauce warm over low heat.
- Add the drained pasta to the sauce, rip in a few fresh basil leaves and fresh oregano leaves and black pepper to taste. (Add more pasta water for a looser, creamier sauce.)
- Serve immediately topping each plate with a little more tomato sauce left in the sauce pan and a light sprinkle of grated pecorino.