Spaghetti alla Checca

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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.

Ingredients

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For 2 servings

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)

Preparation

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Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt and the spaghetti, and cook for the time indicated on the package for al dente.

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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.)

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When the pasta is cooked, drain and rinse with cold water. You can keep the spaghetti lukewarm or cool it to room temperature.

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Season the cheese and tomatoes and immediately add them to the pasta, together with most of the basil.

(Salting them earlier would draw too many juices out of the tomatoes and cheese.)

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Toss to mix — as the spaghetti is cold the easiest way to do this is with your hands!

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Transfer to plates (again — hands are the best tools) and drizzle generously with extra virgin olive oil.

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Garnished with the reserved basil and season with freshly ground black pepper. Serve at once.

Wine pairing

This is nice with a light dry rosé.

Flashback

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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.

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17 thoughts on “Spaghetti alla Checca

  1. Had no name for this until you posted but have prepared similar and shall copy yours when spring will have sprung in about eight weeks time! When making cold pasta dishes I often use Japanese soba noodles which have body and a delightful taste and I very much consider ‘good carbs’ 🙂 !

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  2. Carissimo Stefan, anch’io spesso mangio pasta, appena scolata e quindi ancora calda, e li condiamo con tocchetti di mozzarella, con pomodorini precedentemente conditi con basilico, aglio e olio e per concludere pochissimo origano on the top. Sono buonissimi!! Proverò anche i tuoi. Baciooo Olandese Bea

    Ps: ho pubblicato l’ultimo pezzetto d’Olanda. Cosa pensi del mio giro? Caro Stefan la tua terra è meravigliosa!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carissima Bea, ho letto tutti i tuoi post del viaggio in Olanda e mi sono piaciuti un sacco. Naturalmente la tua terra è più bella, ma con un po’ di sole neanche l’Olanda è male 😉 La prossima volta dovremmo assolutamente incontrarci.
      Bacio, Stefan

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      • Ciao Stefan, sentirmi dire, da un Olandese DOC come te, che i miei post sull’Olanda ti sono piaciuti un sacco, è un complimento bellissimooooo 🙂
        Se hai visto il mio post su Borghetto sul Mincio ti sarai accorto che ho conosciuto Silva e mi ha detto che verrai presto in Italia. Se sono in zona fammelo sapere che potremmo fare un grande incontro con te e Silva. Bacione Bea

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  3. Hi Stefan … as you must surely know by now, I am one of the biggest fans of your cooking and have even told you that you should go professional one day ! I think your ‘sense’ of how things should taste is a gift, you are a very lucky man. I can see why your ‘sense’ would want to utilise burrata in this recipe and I am sure it tasted delicious. That said, however, I must say that I recoil in Roman horror at the very idea of adding burrata to this uber Roman of dishes ! (I notice that Giallo Zafferano does the same thing and again, my reaction was … you can tell the recipe writer is not Roman). There is something ‘sacred’ about certain dishes that screams “do not touch me ! do not even dream of changing anything “, and pasta alla Checca is one of them. Garlic plays a role, only in a subdued way. You let a clove of garlic steep in the oil for and remove it before adding the pasta. It does not overpower anything. Wait for the pasta to cool a little otherwise the mozzarella will ‘cook’. And another drizzle of olive oil is the final touch. Because this is not a saucy sauce, it is better to use a short-shaped pasta rather than spaghetti or linguine. I have heard of people adding olives to this recipe … but though I adore olives, for me they ruin this dish in particular. What a stick-in-the-mud I am when it comes to classic recipes, I know …. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Jo, thanks for your nice message. It is so cool that there Italian ladies debating authenticity of recipes on my blog now 🙂
      I can understand why you recoil at changing ingredients in traditional recipes. Unfortunately, caciotta is not available to me, which is my I had to ‘resort to’ burrata instead. I did point out in the post that burrata is not traditional. As for the spaghetti, as far as I’ve been able to tell that is in fact the original pasta shape, although I agree with you that a shorter pasta may be better in terms of texture.
      I had not thought of steeping the garlic in oil (which I often do in other recipes) as that would ruin the flavor of the oil. Of course more ‘olio crudo’ could be added at the end.

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        • Well you know you have a standing invitation! You’ll have quite an appetite after running all the way from Frascati though 😉
          Seriously, it would be wonderful if you both could visit.
          Our next trip to Italy unfortunately won’t take us farther South than Veneto.

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  4. Me li ero dimenticati gli Spaghetti alla Checca, che a Roma si mangiano già in primavera! I tuoi sono perfetti, senza l’aggiunta finale di formaggio grattugiato che molti pensano sia obbligatorio in Italia sulla pasta! Non è una vera insalata fredda di pasta, perché gli spaghetti si condiscono mentre sono ancora tiepidi e il risultato è molto gradevole.
    Più che a un accenno all’omosessualità, penso che il nome sia da attribuire ad una fantomatica Sora Checca (Signora Francesca in romanesco) che potrebbe averli cucinati per prima!
    Come sempre i tuoi piatti Italiani sono perfino migliori dei miei!
    Un abbraccio.

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    • Tuttavia Silva Avanzi Rigobello l’aggiunta della burrata non mi convince affatto – non perché la burrata non sia deliziosa (la adoro), ma perché il piatto era perfetto così com’è … e sì, senza l’aggiunta di formaggio grattugiato … e poi, gli spaghetti? non è meglio la pasta corta essendo questo un sugo poco ‘sugoso’ ? A me parrebbe così … poi ognuna fa come gli pare, per carità.

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  5. Anche io come stefan sostituisco la mozzarella (e la caciotta) con la burrata, trovo che in questo modo il piatto risulti molto piu appettiotoso! Inoltre trovo si sposi meglio con pasta corta come mezze penne o mezze maniche.

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