This recipe is inspired by an al fresco dinner we recently enjoyed in the beautiful city of Lucca in Tuscany. We were sitting on the outside of the infamous Piazza Anfiteatro when I noticed a long snake of very young children each holding tiny posies of flowers with their very handsome teacher who was nervously whispering instructions to them. They started to walk into the piazza so it was obvious that something good was about to happen. I immediately left the table and ran in ahead of them and I’m so glad that I did. The children quietly gathered around a table of young women who were enjoying dinner together and sang a song which clearly meant something to one of them. As they did, the teacher got down on one knee proposed to her and, when she said yes and ran into his arms, the entire piazza erupted into a mighty cheer. I will never forget it and that is why this beautiful pasta dish is forever written in my memory.
500g mixed colour cherry tomatoes
4 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
Extra-virgin olive oil
Splash of red wine vinegar
1 tsp dried wild oregano
A generous pinch of pul biber (Aleppo pepper), plus extra for garnishing
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
400g dried rigatoni
2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
1 burrata (you can also use mozzarella or ricotta)
Zest of 1 lemon, for garnishing
For the salsa verde:
30g mint leaves, picked
30g basil leaves, picked
Flat leave parsley
3 medium cornichons
2 tbsp of capers, rinsed and patted dry
1 clove of garlic
2-3 anchovy filets (optional)
4 tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp of red wine vinegar
1 tsp of Dijon mustard
How I make it
Heat an oven to 180C.
Cut the tomatoes in half and place on a baking tray, cut side up. Add the unpeeled garlic cloves. Drizzle with olive oil and season. Place in the oven and roast for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven.
Make the salsa verde by roughly chopping the herbs. Place the cornichons, capers, garlic clove and anchovy filets (if using) on top and chopped everything very finely (I use a mezzaluna for this). Turn everything into a medium sized bowl, add the olive oil, vinegar and the mustard. Stir everything together and set aside.
Add the tomatoes to a frying pan and squeeze in the garlic. Add a splash of red wine vinegar, the oregano and pul biber and allow to gently simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to your taste.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the instructions on the pack (we like ours al dente).
Drain the pasta, retaining a little of the cooking water to loosen up the tomato sauce. Toss the pasta into the sauce and combine.
To serve, tear the burrata into four pieces and place on top of the pasta, drizzle with the salsa verde (keep the rest in the fridge for another day) and garnish with toasted pine nuts, lemon zest and a pinch of pul biber.