A few months ago, when I asked Johanne Killeen, coauthor of On Top of Spaghetti, to name the best pasta meal she had eaten within the last year, she mentioned this dish. She had it in Salina, an island off the northeast coast of Sicily. Since we're cooking from this book and this dish comes so highly recommended, I thought I'd make it our Serious Recipe of the day.
Salina-Style Spaghettini with Cherry Tomatoes
- Yield:Serves 6 to 8 as a first course or 4 to 6 as a main course.
- 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 6 dozen small (8 to 10 ounces) ripe cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- Pinch or up to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
- 1 pound dried spaghettini
- 1 plump garlic clove, peeled and minced
- 1/2 cup heaping and loosely packed fresh mint leaves
- 1 1/4 cups (about 2 1/4 ounces) freshly grated ricotta infornata or ricotta salata
Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
Put the olive oil and cherry tomatoes in a large straight-sided sauté pan. Sprinkle with cayenne. Warm over medium heat until the tomatoes begin to give off some of their juice, shaking the pan every so often.
Meanwhile, generously salt the boiling water in the pot and add the spaghettini. Cook, stirring often, until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water. Transfer the pasta to the sauté pan, add the garlic, and toss with the tomatoes. Add 1/3 cup of the reserved pasta water. Toss over medium heat until the water and oil emulsify. Add more water as necessary, a tablespoon at a time, until you have a nice creamy consistency and all the strands of spaghettini are well coated with sauce. Rip the mint leaves into small pieces and toss with the spaghettini. Transfer to heated bowls and top with the cheese. Serve immediately.