Orecchiette-light pasta lunch

Orecchiette is a pasta that resembles a little ear or little hat; it has its origin in Puglia, in the southern part of Italy. Food in Puglia is simple, but tastes great. Orecchiette with broccoli rabe is one of the regions signature dishes (orecchiette con cime di rapa).

This pasta is a bit tricky to shape if made on your own and because it is time-consuming I recommend you buy it. More and more supermarkets carry it. Otherwise you can find it in specialized Italian markets.

I experimented with different ingredients and the recipe with ricotta and roasted black cherry tomatoes is my favorite. I briefly cook the tomatoes in olive oil and garlic so they become sweeter and lose their acidity. Black cherry tomatoes are tastier and less acidic than the regular bright red ones found in supermarkets.

As a side dish I included a colorful cucumber and peppers salad mixed with pie nuts and a light vinaigrette.

We are in the peak of  the peach season so I finished the menu with a poached doughnut peach and sponge cake dessert. Doughnut peaches are full of flavour and sweeter than regular peaches.

Orecchiette with black cherry tomatoes and ricotta

serves 4

  • 450g orecchiette
  • 350g black cherry tomatoes, or regular cherry tomatoes
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons shredded fresh basil
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil (no extra virgin)
  • 12 tablespoons ricotta cheese
  • pepper
  • salt

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and reduce to medium heat. Cook for 13-15 min, or until al dente.

Exact time is marked on the package.

Halve the tomatoes. Mince the garlic.

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat and add the tomatoes.

Add a pinch or two of salt and minced garlic. When tomatoes get softer add the shredded basil and cook for another minute.

Drain the pasta in colander.

Blend the ricotta cheese until smooth.

Evenly divide the pasta on the plates, add 3 tablespoons of ricotta cheese to each dish. Pour over the tomato sauce and extra olive oil if desired.

Bell pepper and cucumber salad

serves 4

  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1 cucumber ( not  long English)
  • pinch of of salt ( or to your taste)
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoon sunflower oil
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

Halve the cucumber. With a teaspoon take the seeds out.

Turn the cucumber onto its curved side and slice into batons.

Cut batons into dices. Put on a side.

Cut the 2 or 3 lobes from each pepper and remove the seeds, membrane and stalk. Block off each lobe so that you can have regular shape.

Slice each lobe into strips, then into small squares. Put on a side.

Mix cut vegetables in a bowl. Add salt, pine nuts and basil.

Mix well.

Make the vinaigrette, mixing the sunflower oil and balsamic vinegar. Add to the salad.

Peach cake 

makes 4

  • 8 medium size honey peaches, or 4 regular peaches
  • sponge cake, home-made or store-bought
  • 4 tablespoon orange liquor
  • 120g granulated sugar
  • 240ml water
  • 2  tablespoon pistachio, crushed
  • 150ml whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon icing sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla

On a very low heat dissolve sugar in water. Bring to the boil then put the sliced peaches in (in baches) and reduce to a simmer. Simmer  for one minute. Take the peaches out and peel the skin.

Bring syrup to gentle boil until slightly reduced and slightly thickened.

With a big cookie cutter cut the sponge cake to fit the bottom of the dish in which you will serve the desert.

I cut mine into 10cm / 4 inch circles to fit the bottom of my porcelain dish.

Sprinkle the bottom of each dish with orange liquid.

Put the sliced peaches on top  and pour sugar syrup over it.

Sprinkle crushed pistachio on top.

In a bowl beat cold whipping cream, vanilla and icing sugar. Serve with peach desert.

Here is a recipe if you like to make your own sponge cake.

  •  3 eggs, room temperature
  • 85g flower, sifted
  • 85g caster sugar
  • a pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 190C / 375F.

Brush the bottom and sides of a shallow tin with a little oil, then line with a baking parchment. Brush it again lightly with oil.

Put sugar and eggs in a heat proof bowl.

Place the bowl over a bain-marie (pan of simmering water), making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water.

Whisk until the mixture becomes pale and thick.

Fold carefully sifted flour into the egg mixture with a big spoon. Don’t overfold or the cake will not rise well.

Pour into a prepared tin.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 15 min or until golden and springs back when touched lightly.

Cool slightly in the tin, then turn out on the wire rack, lined with a baking parchment.

Peel of the lining paper. Cut into desired shapes.

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