more arugula pasta

Arugula. In Rome they call it rughetta (UK translation: rocket) and sometimes you see it called rucola. The Roman stuff has jagged edged leaves compared to the rounded American leaves but the flavor is approximately the same. And in the past few years it has become commonplace in American supermarkets, coincidentally about the same time frame in which it appeared on our radar screens while dining in Rome. Or should we say lunching in Rome.

Marisa at the Bar delle Scienze got bob's attention with this magic ingredient and has since remembered that it is his favorite at the little lunch bar outside the first University of Rome not far from the central train station. In Italy a "bar" has alcohol, but it is primarily a coffee/pastry/lunch food stop. Marisa's (the mom and boss) family owned place expands on the concept at lunch time to offer some "home cooked" to order pasta dishes in addition to the many side dishes (several types of cooked greens, pasta salads, vegetables, etc) and the usual display of panini of various sorts. Having also been renovated with air conditioning, it is a comfortable place to do lunch in those hot summer months bob passes in Rome as a connected relativist, although increasingly shorter visits and the long hike from the other side of the Policlinico (CNR Matematica Applicata) where he often finds himself at lunch time has reduced the frequency of his Marisa kitchen experiences.

This recipe was read in the food section of the newspaper in the morning (Rush-Hour Gourmet by Renne Schettler of the Washington Post), and actually tried out that evening, in sharp contrast with the 99 percent of newspaper clippings that only get saved and not acted upon. Presented as a prototype for a summery pasta dish, adapted from a similar recipe in Simple Meals put together by the editors of Organic Style magazine (Rodale, 2003). We had just gotten a bag of baby arugula the day before and had already some experience with using ricotta salata as a pasta cheese that seemed right for this occasion, so that was acquired in the afternoon with some fresh pancetta (so we wouldn't have to unthaw the frozen slice in the freezer). Since bob is trying to control his bad influence on ms_ani's calorie intake this summer, the 12 oz package of cheap but seemingly elegant Trader Joe's tri-colored farfalle (butterfly) pasta seemed like a good downsizing measure. The result only has lemon as a subtle flavor so it seemed reasonable to promote the clearly present ricotta salata to the named co-ingredient, giving the dish its kick and nicely complimenting the arugula. Another happy ending.


their name our name
pasta with asparagus and lemon
pasta with arugula and ricotta salata
what they said what we did
1 lb penne or other tube-shaped pasta 12oz = 3/4 lb tri-colored farfalle
1 large bunch asparagus or zucchini or shelled peas or a few handfuls of freshly torn arugula, spinach or basil leaves a few handfuls of coarsely chopped baby arugula
1 T extra-virgin olive oil 1 T extra-virgin olive oil
(the only kind we use)
1/2 c finely chopped pancetta (optional) 1/3 c almost finely chopped pancetta
1/2 c chopped yellow onion 1 yellow onion, chopped
1 T finely chopped garlic 2 large garlic cloves, pressed
freshly ground black pepper freshly ground black pepper
zest of 1 lemon zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 to 1 c ricotta or grated Pecorino cheese 1/4 lb ricotta salata, grated coarsely


  1. Do the boiling salted pasta water thing and cook the pasta al dente.
  2. Meanwhile prep the arugula, onion, garlic and pancetta, and lemon stuff so it is all ready when needed and coarsely grate the cheese when you have a free moment later on.
  3. Heat the oil in a large chef's pan (or whatever pot that will accommodate the pasta as well when ready) and cook the pancetta until softened, a few minutes. Remove to a paper towel covered plate.
  4. Now do the onions in the same pot until softened, and then briefly the added garlic so it does not brown. Season with the black pepper (no salt is needed since the ricotta salata does that job). This is where you could also do the chopped asparagus until just crisp but still green instead of the arugula. Turn off the heat if the pasta is not yet ready.
  5. Drain the pasta reserving a cup of the pasta water and add the pasta and a half cup or so of the pasta water and the lemon stuff and pancetta to the sauce pot and toss to combine over low heat or no heat, depending on your mood.
  6. Finally toss in the torn/chopped arugula and cheese and mix it up until the cheese begins to melt slightly and the ingredients are evenly distributed.
  7. Serve immediately.


  1. Of course "American" should refer to the entire continent, of which the USA is only a small fraction of the total land mass, but cleverly there is no adjective for United States in English, so we go around appropriating the whole deal all the time. Kind of like we do in many other ways on the world scene. Forgive me for continuing this practice.
  2. Bar delle Scienze = Bar of the Sciences, since it is on the corner across the street from the national headquarters of Italy's CNR = Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, as well as a stone's throw from the university science buildings on the other side of Piazzale Aldo Moro, formerly Piazzale delle Scienze before the assassination of a famous Italian politician led to its renaming. At the corner of via dei Liburni (no. 28) and via dei Ramni. Ask for Marisa and tell her dr bob sent you.
  3. Marisa had already inspired us to fake another arugula pasta dish with zucchini the summer before but we forgot to give her credit.
  4. Illustration available.

the precursor: pasta with arugula and ricotta

Before leaving for our first visit to Rio (made possible by a relativity conference), followed by our second visit to Buenos Aires (where scattered Armenia relatives live, first visit made possible by a relativity conference), we had tried a recipe that was written down on a bank machine receipt from a Crate and Barrel displayed cookbook Fast and Fresh: Quick Recipes for Busy Lives by Louise Pickford that caught our eye because of the arugula pasta recipe which we promptly tried out a few days later. We used whole wheat penne (more healthy perhaps but we threw in the whole 1 lb package) and a plastic container of ricotta (no time to get just what we needed of the fresh stuff at Carlino's), half of which lived on in the fridge partway through our 12 day trip but died before our return. We managed to finish off the pasta before leaving. Good. We enjoyed our trip too.


12 oz = 3/4 lb penne
1/3 c olive oil
1 c pine nuts
4 oz arugula, chopped
2 T fresh basil, chopped
2 T fresh parsley, chopped
8 oz = 1 c ricotta
4 oz parmigiano (half in, half per serving later)
1/4 c reserved pasta water
black pepper to taste


  1. Cook the pasta al dente.
  2. Meanwhile sauté the pine nuts in olive oil in a large pot that will accommodate the pasta later on. Turn off the heat before overly browning the pine nuts.
  3. Do the chopping and grating prep work.
  4. When the pasta is done, drain and toss together with the remaining ingredients in the sauce pot until evenly distributed.
  5. Serve immediately with freshly grated parmigiano and optional extra black pepper.
arugpsta.htm: 18-aug-2006 [what, ME cook? © 1984 dr bob enterprises]