I always keep several types of pasta in my pantry, because I can make a simple meal in no time using other ingredients I have on the shelf or in the freezer. When I visit Italian markets in Steubenville, Ohio, or Pittsburgh, I stock up on unusual pastas that are not readily available here.
I have been pleased to see that one local chain occasionally has unique Italian pasta shapes. I recently picked up a bag of casarecce (pronounced “kah-sah-rey-chey”). They are short, scrolled pasta noodles that have curled edges and a groove down the middle.
The word “casarecce” means “homemade.” This type of pasta is one that is often made by hand using small rectangles of dough that are rolled around a wooden pin or metal rod. Commercially produced casarecce is made using a die, and each little scroll comes out almost identical.
Casarecce originated in Sicily, and it is wonderfully versatile. Since sauces adhere well, it is great to use with tomato sauces or pesto.
Sicilians like to serve casarecce with a variety of pestos. A common Sicilian pesto served over casarecce is made with tomatoes, ricotta, basil, and pine nuts. Other pestos served with casarecce include Trapanese pesto made with tomatoes, basil, almonds, and pecorino.
Pistachio pesto made with Italian pistachios is another favorite. Pumpkin and orange pesto is a more modern, intriguing pairing, with pumpkin seeds used in the sauce instead of the more popular and traditional pine nuts or almonds found in other pestos.
The use of casarecce pasta is not limited to dishes with sauce. It is good combined with meat and vegetables, and it is great in a robust, chunky pasta salad. It can be used in soups such as Umbrian Pea Soup, a recipe that calls for rare roveja peas that are relatively unknown outside Umbria. Since this ancient wild legume from the Sibillini Mountain ranges is a difficult ingredient to find in the United States, chickpeas or lentils can be substituted.
Casarecce is a great pasta to serve with caponata, and it is an excellent choice in casserole dishes, because it will not get too dry.
Simple Tomato Sauce with Casarecce
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2½ cups petit diced tomatoes (with liquid)
2-3 tablespoons tomato paste
1½ teaspoons Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 cups casarecce, cooked
Parmesan cheese, if desired
In a large saucepan, heat olive oil. Cook garlic for about 30 seconds.
Add tomatoes and tomato paste, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Cook over medium heat until thickened.
Serve sauce over cooked pasta and top with Parmesan cheese, if desired.
NOTE: I used frozen tomatoes from our garden, which are often watery. If the sauce isn’t thick enough, add more tomato paste. I vary this recipe by adding ground beef, Italian sausage, sautéed onions, mushrooms, and bell peppers. It is easy to make this with ingredients you like in a pasta sauce. During the summer, I may add zucchini or eggplant to this recipe.