This healthy and delicious vegetarian cavatelli pasta with rocket is a traditional dish from Puglia in Southern Italy. Typical of the Southern Italian culinary tradition, it’s one of many simple recipes made with just a few fresh seasonal local ingredients.
Clean the rocket, wash it well, with cold water. Then drain it in a colander and keep aside. Wash the cherry tomatoes and cut in half. Peel the garlic. Chop the red chili if using fresh.
Next, prepare the tomato sauce. Put the garlic cloves, the chili pepper and 4-5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan or skillet. (also anchovy fillets if using) Fry for a few minutes until the garlic has softened and the anchovy has started to melt. Then add the cherry tomatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes until they start to soften.
Add the tomato passata (or a can of peeled tomatoes) and salt and pepper to taste. Cook until the sauce it has thickened (about 10 minutes). After cooking, remove the garlic cloves.
While you are making the tomato sauce, put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta. Add salt once it starts to boil. Bring to the boil again and add the pasta. Cook the pasta al dente according to the instructions on the packet (if dried). Fresh cavatelli or orecchiette will rise to the surface when they are ready, remove with a slotted spoon.
Add the rocket to the pasta 5 minutes before the pasta is ready. If you are using fresh pasta the rocket can cook with it from the start. Save a cup of the cooking water and drain the pasta and rocket.
Add the pasta and rocket to the tomato sauce. Mix everything together well and season to taste. If the sauce seems dry add some of the pasta cooking water. Serve immediately with grated cheese.
Traditionally this dish is made with cavatelli or orecchiette. But, you can use other short pasta such as penne.
Some people also add onions or olives and other herbs such as basil. Meat lovers may like to add pancetta or sausage meat. These need to be cooked at the beginning with the garlic and chili.
Use vegan cheese and no anchovies for a vegan version. Omit anchovies to make this recipe vegetarian.