Before we continue with another dish from our Thai feast, I’d like to share this very simple pasta dish from Rome with you that is perfect for the hot summer weather we are having. Spaghetti alla Checca is cold (or lukewarm) spaghetti, served with uncooked tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, caciotta romana cheese, basil, and extra virgin olive oil. Caciotta romana is a mild cheese from sheep’s milk, and hard to find around here. So I decided to use burrata as a substitute for both mozzarella and caciotta. Garlic is an optional ingredient — I did not include it as raw garlic would easily overpower the other flavors. Grated parmigiano or pecorino are never served on spaghetti alla checca as that would diminish the fresh elegance of the dish.
The name of this dish has obscure origins; checca is Italian slang for homosexual, but that doesn’t seem to have any relevance. As usual with simply Italian dishes, the quality of the ingredients is key. For an outstanding result use the best quality spaghetti, ripe flavorful tomatoes, imported cheese, fresh basil, and the best extra virgin olive oil you can afford. This dish is perfect for a summer meal outside and so easy to make. If you’d like to prepare it in advance, keep all the components separate and mix them only at the last minute.
As usual, my version is ‘reduced carb’. For the traditional version, use roughly equal amounts of pasta, cheese, and tomatoes.
150 grams (1/3 lb) spaghetti
200 grams (7 oz) burrata cheese (or mozzarella and caciotta)
400 grams (.9 lb) tomatoes
handful of fresh basil leaves
extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
one clove garlic, finely minced (optional)
Meanwhile, seed the tomatoes, chop them, chop the cheese, and tear the basil leaves into pieces. (By tearing the basil leaves instead of cutting them, you won’t bruise them and they will keep their fragrance much better.)
(Salting them earlier would draw too many juices out of the tomatoes and cheese.)
This is nice with a light dry rosé.
You don’t even need sous-vide equipment to prepare fennel sous-vide fondant, which is a great way to prepare fennel. Parcook it sous-vide with stock, then caramelize it and serve with the reduced stock. The nice thing about parcooking the fennel sous-vide is that the fennel becomes tender but stays firm at the same time, which gives it a pleasant bite.