This pasta checca with burrata is an updated spin on a traditional family meal we’ve been eating for generations. Small burst heirloom tomatoes and burrata take tradition to the next level.
Pasta checca is something I’ve been eating since I was a kid, something my mom has eaten since she was a kid and probably something my grandmother grew up eating as a first generation American in an Italian household in the Bronx. Quite literally, “checca” is supposed to be an uncooked tomato sauce. Leave it to my family though to break the rules because ours has always been cooked. You might be thinking well what’s the difference between this “checca” stuff then and traditional marinara but, they’re nothing alike.
Checca epitomizes summer. It’s freshly ripened tomatoes from the garden paired with basil begging to be used before it bolts from the heat with lots of garlic cloves and that’s pretty much it. My mom cooks it entirely in a skillet on the stove in just a few minutes and it’s an incredibly hands off sauce, nothing like marinara.
Because it’s 2015 though and because “when in doubt, add burrata” has become my motto for this summer, I made a few changes to my family’s traditional recipe.
First of all, heirloom tomatoes. I grew tomatoes in a few pots last year but after the hornworm catepillar fiasco of 2014, I’ve decided I’d much rather spend $4.99 for 20 ounces of packaged heirloom tomatoes than pluck disgusting fat green camouflaged worms off my plants. With two containers of the prettiest green, orange, red and striped tomatoes I’ve ever seen in hand, this pasta checca was already beating the traditional plum tomatoes mom usually uses before I even got to cooking.
Next up, anchovy paste. Anchovy paste is like the squeamish “ew, I don’t like tiny little fish packed in a can” girl’s dream. No hairy fish bodies to deal with, just all the flavor already mushed up into a non-fishy looking paste. Sauteing it with the garlic, olive oil and red pepper just takes the flavor profile to the next level.
And then, of course, burrata. What dish isn’t made better with the addition of a creamy ricotta + fresh mozzarella ball of pure happiness escapes my brain at the moment but I can tell you pasta checca is definitely not one of them.
Make this before summer is over. I implore you.
Pasta Checca with Burrata
This pasta checca with burrata is an updated spin on a traditional family meal we've been eating for generations. Small burst heirloom tomatoes and burrata take tradition to the next level.
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 6-8 cloves whole garlic, lightly smashed
- 1/2 tablespoon anchovy paste
- dash red pepper flakes
- 40 ounces small heirloom tomatoes (any big ones, chopped as needed)
- 1/2 pound thin spaghetti
- 4 ounces burrata
- handful fresh basil, torn
- grated parmesan cheese for topping
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- Place the olive oil in a large oven-proof skillet over medium heat.
- Add the garlic, anchovy paste and red pepper flakes. Saute, stirring with a wooden spoon occasionally for about 5 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes to the skillet and saute for another 5 minutes. Transfer the skillet to the oven and let roast for about 20 more minutes until tomatoes have burst.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil.
- Add the pasta once boiling and cook until al dente (about 7 minutes)
- Drain the pasta, return to the pot, add the tomatoes from the skillet and the torn basil and gently toss to combine.
- Transfer to a serving bowl or platter, top with pieces of the burrata, parmesan cheese and more basil.