From The Italian Country Table, by Lynne Rossetto Kasper.
Serves 6 to 8 as a first course, 4 to 6 as a main dish
Vibrant and spicy, this is Puglia's uncooked version of puttanesca, or streetwalker's pasta. Every time I mix together this sauce of fresh tomatoes, garlic, olives, herbs, capers, cheese, and chiles, I imagine the same story: A Puglia farmer makes his once-in-a-lifetime trip across the Italian peninsula to Naples, like our cowboys going to the big city. There he tastes Naples' Pasta of the Streetwalker. He goes home and tells his wife about the dish, but probably not where he ate it. She starts making it, but can't resist adding the Puglia touch of wild arugula. This is my picturesque way of saying if you love puttanesca, you'll love this pasta. It's an example of how pungent ingredients like olives and capers, raw onion, and chiles can call out each facet of the tomato's complicated flavors. By the way, note how a little tomato paste deepens the character of an uncooked sauce.
Cook to Cook: The sauce can wait several hours, lightly covered, at room temperature. Do not refrigerate it.
Wild arugula (also called wall rocket; botanically Diplotaxis muralis) has small, fleshy leaves and tastes peppery, clean, and sharp, quite different from the more familiar cultivated arugula, which can become medicinal and bitter when it's too mature. Substitute either young arugula or the inner leaves of curly endive or mesclun.
Wine Suggestion: A red Copertino, Rosso del Salento, or Salice Salentino from Puglia.
1. Put half the ice cubes in a medium bowl, add the onion, and top with the rest of the cubes. Cover with cold water. Refrigerate 20 to 30 minutes. Drain. (Chilling the onion in ice water renders it crisp and mild.)
2. Mince together the herbs, garlic, and hot pepper with the salt. Turn into a big serving bowl. Add the anchovies, olives, tomatoes, vinegar, cheese, and oil and blend in the tomato paste. Taste for seasoning, adding a little freshly ground black pepper if needed.
3. Cook the pasta in fiercely boiling water, stirring often, until there is no raw flour taste. Orecchiette cook to a chewier consistency than most pastas. Drain in a colander.
4. Put the pasta pot back over medium-high heat. Spoon most of the sauce's liquid into the pot. Stir in the drained pasta and cook a few minutes, or until the liquid is absored. Turn the pasta into the sauce and add the drained onion and fresh greens. Taste for seasoning, toss, and serve.
Andrea Reusing is the creator of the restaurant Lantern in Chapel Hill, N.C., and author of the book Cooking in the Moment: A Year of Seasonal Recipes. In this installment of The Key 3, she shares with Lynne Rossetto Kasper the techniques behind three of her favorite recipes: Turnip Soup, Overnight Braised Short Ribs and Tomato Salad.