Pasta Alla Checca with Goat Cheese and Balsamic
August 15, 2018, and my basil plant will live to see another day.
In fact, even after at least one near-death experience and some damage inflicted by the neighborhood hooligans (rabbits), my basil is thriving.
And don’t get me wrong, this basil has been subjected to systematic neglect. It is survival of the fittest in this house, and those plants that are not equipped to experience systematic neglect MUST GO. (I’m looking at you, all other herbs I’ve tried to grow in my life. But not you, my cute little succulent babies.)
I do have a vision for an herb garden, and that vision is to find a man who will grow me an herb garden. But until I find one of those, it’s me, myself, and this badass basil. Oh, and also the $$$ I am saving from not buying basil, which is directly subsidizing my purchase of mesmerizingly beautiful heirloom tomatoes. And what is summer for if not spending all your bills on tomatoes??
Basil and tomatoes, hopefully I’m already speaking your language. Let me throw a couple other words in there.
I hope I have your attention by now.
This is a riff on traditional Italian pasta alla checca (unless it’s Czech–I’ll get back to you on that). I crave this meal in the middle of summer aka the height of swamp season in DC when I want something hearty, but the idea of cooking for an extended period of time and/or eating something hot is just exhausting.
The best thing about checca sauce is that, despite not being cooked, it has a very concentrated, very umami tomato flavor. The key to making the sauce as flavorful as possible is good heirloom tomatoes and a heavy hand with the salt (don’t @ me). The salt breaks down the tomatoes’ cell walls, releasing the kind of tomato flavor you usually only get from slow roasting. Fragrant basil and a healthy dose of acidity from the goat cheese and balsamic make the dish complex and bright. And garlic because garlic, amirite??
If you don’t already have a pile of heirloom tomatoes sitting at home, scurry on over to your nearest farmers market immediately, and then scroll on down for the recipe for pasta alla checca.