Orecchiette with Arugula

Orecchiete with arugala in a garlic infused olive oil sauce
Orecchiete with arugula in a garlic infused olive oil sauce

I snagged some baby arugula at the Petaluma farmer’s market yesterday.

Simply drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, a drop or 2 of red wine vinegar and sea salt, the tender peppery arugula is a summer treat.

But arugula isn’t just for salads.

I have more arugula that I want to eat now and I’m in the mood for a simple pasta. This quick recipe fits the bill. The pasta is on your table in the time it takes to cook the pasta.

I like a small short pasta for this dish. I used orecchiette (little ears) but you can use dried cavatelli, ditali or your favorite pasta shape.

What a treat to be able to use this just-cut arugula. I don’t want to lose any of its fresh goodness so I just let the arugula wilt in the heat of the pasta and garlic-infused olive oil.

The orecchiette is bathed in the thick mellow sauce. The lightly toasted garlic slices add a nutty note to the peppery arugula enhanced by light heat from red pepper flakes.

You won’t believe the full flavor from so few ingredients. Simple, quick, healthy and delicious.

Buon appetito!

Pasta with Arugula
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Just-cut arugula warmed by the heat of the pasta with garlic-infused olive oil. A simple summer pasta treat.
Recipe type: Pasta
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6-8
  • 4 cups arugula
  • 1 pound dried orecchiete or your favorite short pasta
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • ¼ teaspoon dried red-pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons sea salt for the pasta water and more to taste if needed
  • 1 cup reserved pasta cooking water
  1. Put on a large pot of salted water to boil. (5 quarts water, 2 tablespoons sea salt)
  2. When the water is at a rapid boil add the pasta, stir occasionally so the pasta doesn't stick and cook until the pasta is just al dente.
  3. While the pasta is cooking make the sauce.
  4. Put a skillet or pan large enough to hold the pasta over medium-high heat.
  5. Add the olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes to the pan and cook until the garlic just starts to take on color.
  6. Reduce the heat to low to keep the sauce warm while the pasta finishes cooking.
  7. When the pasta is cooked reserve a cup of the cooking water, strain the pasta and add it to the sauce.
  8. Add some cooking water to thin the sauce and bring the sauce to a simmer.
  9. Add the arugula, toss well and cook until the arugula starts to wilt.
  10. Serve immediately with a sprinkle of grated parmigiano.



Weekend Recipe: Cavatelli with Arugula

Cavatelli with Arugula & Holy Oil in the Spoon

My mother made fresh cavatelli often, “gavadeal” in the argot of my southern Italian Jersey neighborhood. I’m making it with dried cavatelli from a small producer in Naples. Just 2 ingredients, durum wheat semolina flour and water. The pasta is extruded through a bronze die and dried in the slow, traditional way. The bronze die gives it “la lingua di gatto”, the rough feel of a cat’s tongue that helps the sauce adhere to the pasta. The pasta is the star of this dish so use the best from Italia.

When I lived in Rhode Island the same pasta was called cavatieddi or as my RI Italian-American friends say “cavati”. I made the pasta in anticipation of friends coming to San Francisco this weekend. Carol is bringing a “machine” from Rhode Island to make fresh cavati. Can’t wait to see this contraption.

Anyway, here’s the recipe for this really tasty, healthy and simple pasta from the southern Italia region of Apuglia. They love pasta with wild, bitter greens. I didn’t have time to forage so I used baby arugula. No garlic here! The full flavor of the al dente cavatelli  balances the peppery arugula and the grated pecorino ties it all together. A simple, pristine and full-flavored pasta ready to eat in the time it takes to boil water and cook the pasta! Olio sante (holy oil) makes this dish even better. Add a drop or two to your plate of pasta and a tear or two will follow. No hot oil no tears. I like the tears but you decide. Buon appetito!


Note–If you can’t find hot peppers packed in olive oil you can make your own. Put a couple of small red hot peppers in a jar and cover with a cup of EVOO. Let steep for about a week. Add a few drops of the golden red oil to any dish to bring a tear or two to your eye as you eat.