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Orecchiette with Arugula Sauce & “Olio Santo”


We Americans have come to love arugula in salads and even as a pesto, but lightly cooked, it adds a delicious, nutty note to a simple pan sauce. This is also a great way to use up arugula that may have been sitting in the fridge for a few days. 

Orecchiette is a true pasta of Puglia. As is tradition, the women make pasta by hand, but there are some nice authentic brands online and in better Italian markets, too. Imported pasta is made with real semolina flour which makes a nice, rich, chewy pasta that holds the “condiment” well. 

This condiment translates to “the oil of the saints” as it is both delicious and medicinal, too. You can store the leftovers in a glass jar for later use. I always have some on hand. 

This is a perfect 15-minute dinner.

Serves 4


Olio Santo
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 long Italian hot peppers or three jalapenos, stemmed and sliced into rings, seeds intact 

Pasta and Arugula Sauce
1 lb artisan orecchiette pasta or homemade (you can sub penne or gluten-free penne)
4 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
¼ cup good olive oil 
pinch of salt
1 can high-quality plum tomatoes, squished by hand, juice reserved
generous handful chopped basil
1 lb arugula
½ cup Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for the table
½ cup toasted breadcrumbs (for a vegan version)


Olio Santo
1. Put the peppers and the oil in a small, heavy pot and cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, until the peppers are sizzling and softened. Allow to cool in the pot. 

Pasta and Arugula Sauce
1. Bring a pot of generously salted water to a rolling boil. Drop in the orecchiette and stir. Simultaneously, in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat, add the olive oil. When it is shimmering, add the garlic and a pinch of salt. Stir the pasta again.

2. When the garlic is getting golden/amber-colored, add the tomatoes all at once. Turn the heat to high. Swirl the pan. Let the sauce boil until the pasta is ready.

3. Check the pasta. When it is al dente, add the arugula to the pasta water. Cook one minute and drain.

4. Add cooked pasta and arugula and the basil to the pan. Mix it up. 

5. Stir in the Romano cheese and/or breadcrumbs, sprinkle more on top, and serve right away with more cheese and a bowl of olio santo on the side.

Hudson Valley Restaurant Week is back this April 8-21!