KAREN’S CHECCA PASTA RECIPE—WITH A LOT OF CHOICES!
Who am I? All of a sudden I’m coming up with recipes for you guys!
It all came out of my having to start cooking a bit after my stroke. In the hospital, my new medical team broke down my for-the-rest-of-my-life dietary restrictions, and—I’m not going to lie—I was gobsmacked! Not only did I not ever cook, I never go to the market! Mr. X goes out and picks-up lunch for us almost every day that I work from home, which, prior to October, meant bring back sandwiches, pizza, burgers, you name it. Nothing was ever good for us; it was all just convenient. And delicious, of course, as most unhealthful foods are.
So, being the major foodie that you know I am, I had to totally re-tool my eating habits, while trying to still enjoy what I was eating. And, horrifyingly, we both had to start cooking for ourselves most of the time. But let me tell you—I have come up with some winners! Including this wonderful pasta recipe. Mr. X is beside himself with joy when I say I’m going to make this one. I can literally get him to go out with me nowadays, if I promise to make the Checca the next day! It’s like a magic wand!
For those of you who have to eat as carefully as I do, for serious health reasons, I promise—everything in here should be okay for you. But I included several choices of each ingredient, so you can tailor it to your own needs. And, let me happily tell the other peeps who can’t eat white flour either, I always use wheat pasta. You can even use the new ones made from ancient grains, if you like, or even the vegetable pastas. It’s hard to make this taste bad, especially if you’re a garlic fan, as we are.
And, one of the best parts of the recipe is that you don’t even cook the “sauce!” The only “cooking” you do is the basic pasta!
I make this amount for just the two of use, but we don’t eat any side dishes with it because we just love it on its own. And sometimes we even have some left over. But, if you augment it with salad, or soup, or even bread if you can eat it, (I recommend bread stix,) this should be enough for a quartet. And I know I’m giving you a lot of info on each step of the recipe, but that’s what I always wish everyone who writes a recipe would do!
So, let’s get to it already!
WHOLE WHEAT PASTA WITH CHECCA
5 or 6 tomatoes, seeded and diced (I use Roma ones, but I’m sure any will work. Also, we love the tomatoes in this dish, so we use 6, but 5 will work for most people.)
4 cloves of garlic, chopped really finely (The number of cloves really depends on the size of them, by the way. One chunk of garlic can have giant cloves and tiny ones. Go by the size of the them, the number of tomatoes you used, and how much you love, or don’t love, garlic. But make sure they’re really chopped up! Mincing them is not necessary, but you do want the pieces as tiny as possible.)
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil (I fill a half cup with the whole leaves, and then wash and chop them. That’s so much easier than chopping and guessing!)
1/2 cup olive oil
4 oz. Cubes of real mozzarella cheese (They don’t really have to be cubes; just similar-sized pieces. Also, you can skip this, if you’re not a cheese fan. But I love it, and it’s one of only two cheeses I can eat, so I lay it on thick. And, I never measure this ingredient—I just do a bit at a time, and stop when it looks like the amount of cheese we like.)
A bit of salt, which is definitely optional! ( I never use it in this! And guess what? We don’t miss it at all! If Mr. X feels he needs some, he sprinkles some pink sea salt on the finished product, right before he digs in.)
12 oz. of angel hair pasta or thin spaghetti, preferably in whole wheat (So far, I can’t find angel hair in the wheat variety, but “thin spaghetti” has proved just fine. Even regular width spaghetti is okay! It’s your preference.)
THE VERY SIMPLE DIRECTIONS
Combine tomatoes, garlic, basil, and olive oil in a big non-metal mixing bowl.
Stir in a bit of sea salt, if you choose. (I never do, because I have to stay away from salt, and I swear—it makes no difference. But I do put a bit of salt in the pasta water.)
Cover with plastic wrap.
Leave it out, at room temperature for at least 2 hours. You can actually go for up to10 hours, which makes it a great dish to whip up before you leave for work, and have almost all ready when you get home.
Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water (I do 8 quarts, and salt it just a tiny bit, after it has boiled, right before adding the broken-in-half pasta) to your desired denseness. (We like it not al dente. So, we find that 8 or 9 minutes is perf.)
You can either pour the entire uncooked tomato concoction over the hot pasta, and toss, or let the individuals take the pasta first, and then top it with as much “sauce” as they like. Just make sure you all get that garlic-y olive oil into each bowl!
Enjoy! I know you will.