Tomato and Wild Mint Pasta

Tomato and Wild Mint Pasta

So, when I got to Rome a few years ago I quickly learned of local celebrity food journalist and cookbook author Katie Parla.  She’s kind of a big deal.  I follow her pretty fanatically on social media and love her dedication to the Italian south.  I also have a soft spot in my heart for the underloved south. You know, since my husband and our olive trees come from there.

Her most recent cookbook Food of the Italian South: Recipes for Classic, Disappearing and Lost Dishes captured me.  It is a cookbook, a history lesson and a cooking class all rolled into one.  My first attempt at one of her recipes was a massive success. We used everything from ours and his mother’s garden.  The only thing we had to buy was the pasta (I'm not quite there yet.) We were left licking the bowls it was so good. It is a hot pasta but I really think this could work as a cold pasta salad for a BBQ too.  It is so fresh and summery with all the mint and basil. 

Anyhow, do yourself a favor and buy this book.  It will nourish you in more ways than one.

Ingredients

  • 4 garlic cloves
  • Sea salt
  • 1 ½ cups loosely packed fresh pulieio (wild spearmint) or mint
  • 1 ½ cups loosely packed fresh basil or parsley
  • 7 tablespoons EVOO
  • 1 teaspoon peperoncino or red pepper flakes
  • 1 (14 ounce) can whole tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 1 cup Roma tomatoes, halved
  • 1 lb fresh cicatielli or dried cavatelli 

Preparation

With mortar and pestle, crush garlic and pinch of salt. Add mint and basil in stages, crushing until incorporated. Add olive oil to hydrate, no more than 3 tablespoons. 

Warm 4 tablespoons olive oil in large pan over medium heat. When oil begins to shimmer, add pesto. Cook, stirring frequently, until hot. Add red pepper flakes, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, and season with salt, to taste. Simmer until tomatoes begin to fall apart and sauce thickens, about 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a rolling boil. Cook cavatelli for about 2 minutes less than package indicates. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water, and drain cavatelli. Add cavatelli to sauce, and mix well. Adjust sauce’s consistency with reserved pasta water, as needed. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce clings loosely to pasta, about 1 minute. Season with salt, to taste. Garnish with basil leaves and drizzle with chile oil, if desired.