September 11, 2012
Spaghetti al Telefono with Arugula and Sungolds and It's Still Summer
Technically, it's still summertime folks. I know this because it's not September 22nd yet, and also because the market is still featuring goodies like sungold tomatoes and arugula - two items that I definitely associate with summer. So there. It's still summer - let's not wish it all away because soon enough we'll be bundled up - and I can accept that inevitability - but not just yet.
My mom used to make this dish a lot when we were young. I always remember it because of the name - spaghetti al telefono. Telephone spaghetti. I love that.
In order to make an al telefono preparation, you must have fresh mozzarella that gently melts and becomes stringy, twisting like the chord of a telephone. Clearly this name was coined back when telephones had chords - which seems so old school now.
I'm a big fan of making good use of the residual heat of cooked pasta. I like to create dishes that are only just wilted or warmed or melted using nothing but the heat of the pasta. This dish does just that. I think it's a waste to put delicate arugula through the trials and tribulations of intense heat. In this dish, the steam and heat from the spaghetti wilts it just right, retaining it's vibrant color and piquant flavor, which is well matched by the sweet juices of the sungold tomatoes. The mozzarella is chewy in a good way.
This dish is ready in the time it takes to boil the pasta, which makes it a perfect candidate for busy weeknight meals. You could probably even make it while on the telefono.
What you'll need:
1 lb spaghetti
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more
1/4 tsp red chili flakes
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 pint sungold tomatoes, washed and halved
2-3 cups arugula, washed and drained
1/2 lb fresh mozzarella, cut into thin strips
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Boil a large pot of well salted water and drop the pasta - cook according to package instructions.
While the pasta cooks, gently heat the minced garlic, chili flakes and olive oil over medium low heat, until the garlic becomes fragrant. Add the halved sungolds and season with salt and black pepper.
Cook for 2-3 minutes or until the sungolds are just heated through.
Transfer the sungold mixture to the bottom of a large serving platter and add the washed and dried arugula and strips of mozzarella. Season with salt and pepper.
Once the pasta has cooked, drain it and add it directly on top of the ingredients in the platter. Do not mix it right away - allow the pasta to nest on top and warm the ingredients for a minute or two before tossing it all together. The heat from the boiled pasta is what allows the mozzarella to gently melt.
Mix well with tongs, pulling the mozzarella with the lengths of spaghetti. Add an extra drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and more seasoning, including chili flakes if you like, as needed.