A favorite restaurant of mine in Rome serves this pasta as one of its first courses. Unlike many first courses, this one is very uncomplicated and simple, but the strong-tasting rocket (arugula) greens and warm bite of red pepper flakes do their job to stimulate the appetite. This recipe also makes a good, fast supper dish when you don’t feel like doing a lot of cooking. It’s a great way to use rocket leaves when the plants are ready to bolt. They are often too spicy and hot when used raw in a salad, but are fine when cooked.
Use a thin, flat whole wheat noodle; De Cecco makes a good one.
Yield: 2 servings
¼ pound whole wheat pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 or 2 pinches red pepper flakes
5 to 6 large handfuls of rocket (arugula) leaves, roughly chopped
Freshly grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
Extra virgin olive oil to finish
Bring a large pot of water to boil, add salt to taste, and drop in the pasta. While it is cooking, slowly warm the olive oil in a skillet with the garlic and red pepper and cook for about 2 minutes. Next add the rocket greens and let them wilt. Scoop out a little water from the pasta pot and add it to the pan—let the greens, garlic, and red pepper stew gently.
When the pasta is al dente, scoop it out and put it in the pan with the greens. Let some of the water drip into the pan. Toss everything together with a pair of tongs. Serve the pasta with a dusting of cheese and the extra-virgin olive oil dribbled over the top.