Orecchiette with feta, spinach, and courgettes

Some time ago  at Restaurant22, I had a rather excellent dish of gnocchi with feta, wilted bitter leaves, and various kind of bean. My suspicion is that copying it would be harder than it sounds, but yesterday I was in the mood for similar flavours.

A quick Google yields a number of extemporizations around the theme of orecchiette with feta. There are recipes that simply add rocket, or spinach, there were those with roasted peppers, and a couple with shrimp or chicken. It seems to be some kind of combinatorial matrix: pick a leaf, pick a main vegetable, pick an optional supporting veg. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s what Silver Spoon makes most of Italian cooking feel like.

So I chose courgettes. Because I love them, and I am sceptical of shrimp.

Aubergine and Merguez sausage pasta

On Thursday night, feeling lazy, I  shoved a bunch of tomatoes in the oven with some onions and a few cloves of garlic, roasted it, and dumped it over pasta. It worked broadly, but didn’t quite cohere. The presentation was pleasingly caricature-rustic, and the roasted garlic flavour gave the whole thing a rich backbone. There was a faint smokiness from the slightly-singed tomato skins, the garlic, and the onions (which also retained some crunch). But it wasn’t there yet.

The obvious thing to add would probably be peppers. Courgettes would work, too. Throw it all in the oven, maybe add some wine at the end and mush up the tomatoes a bit. But again, that doesn’t feel quite right to me.

So here’s the plan: switch out the pappardelle for orecchiette, I was just using up leftovers anyway. That changes the texture breakdown, and opens up different structures of sauce, and size and shape of ingredients. Keep the roasted tomatoes, garlic, and onion pieces – the garlic can be peeled and fine-chopped back into the sauce at the end. Go with the wine to let it out a bit. To make it richer and more substantial, throw in baby aubergines and Merguez sausages. I’m keeping an open mind on the peppers. I’ll see what I impulse buy at Al-Amin.

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