Arugula, rucola, rocket…by any name, this addictive peppery green has flourished in my front yard garden (our farmette!) this spring.
Two varieties emerged from the melange of the all-encompassing mesclun seed packet: one with smooth leaves and mild sourness, the other rippled, and biting hot. Both have been delicious tossed into salads, folded into omelettes, rolled into sandwich wraps.
And now, cooked into this oh-so-simple pasta dish, inspired by a dinner in Siena, Italy.
A few years ago, while wandering the narrow cobbled alleys of the many Sienese contradas, we were drawn to a small restaurant, Osteria Il Campaccio. Their sign was bannerlike, bold and red, with a stylized dragon head on it, (the symbol of their contrada, or ward, district.)
Through the windows, it appeared refined, yet homey–white stucco walls and vaulted ceilings, white damask draped tables surrounded by wooden chairs, set with pretty glassware, silver, burgundy napkins…all ready and waiting. Pretty splashes of color, too: baskets of bright red geraniums, bowls of lemons, tomatoes, eggplants.
The menu was distinctly Tuscan, with Sienese specialties like that fat tube like spaghetti called pici, served with ragu. Another plus: The owners had a committment to serving seasonal, locally-sourced fare. We noted the hours and made a plan to return.
The meal was exceptional. We enjoyed radiccio baked (al forno!) with gorgonzola and hazelnuts, marinated baby artichokes, tagliatelle with assorted mushrooms, a grilled ox-heart tomato drizzled in basil-infused olive oil.
The surprising stand-out of the dinner was the whole wheat linguine tossed with rocket, shallots, toasted bread bits, and pecorino toscano.
Rustic and robust—and healthy. I liked the balance of hot, almost bitter greens with sweetness of the shallots, the grated pecorino providing salty tang. I also had never eaten toasted bread bits in pasta before, and why not? They add another element of texture and bite to a dish–aside from being another good use of dry nubs of bread.
The recipe I’m sharing with you today is similar, only I’m using my bounty of beautiful spring green onions instead of shallots, and grated pecorino romano cheese–the toscano is not always easy to find.
For the bread bits–use a sturdy baguette, or similar crusty type, and toast them in good olive oil, salt, and black pepper.
The list of ingredients is short and sweet, the process, too! Enjoy the Hot Rocket Linguine as a prelude to an entree—a nice grilled piece of fish perhaps—or make it the focus, served with a refreshing side bowl of cut fruit.
Whole Wheat Linguine with Rocket, Scallions, and Breadcrumbs
3-4 T. Olive Oil
1 bunch fresh Scallions (spring onions) chopped, using green tops
1/2 t. Sea Salt
1/4 t. Red Pepper Flakes
1 big bundle (6oz) Rocket (a.k.a. arugula, roquette, rucola) coarsely chopped
1 cup toasted bread bits, cut or torn into smaller-than-bite size pieces
4 oz. grated Pecorino Romano
1/2 lb. Whole Wheat Linguine
Heat skillet and add olive oil. Stir in scallions, salt, and red pepper flakes. Saute for about 3 minutes, until scallions become soft and translucent.
Add coarsely chopped rocket and remove from heat.
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil, and cook linguine for 10 minutes—al dente. Drain, and reserve one cup of pasta water. Return pasta to the pot and add the scallion-rocket mixture. Toss well, adding a little pasta water as you stir. The greens should coat the linguine well, continuing to collapse from the residual heat.
Sprinkle in toasted bread bits and grated cheese. Dress with a little more olive oil, if you like. Taste for salt and serve.