Spaghetti alla Checca

I had this dish on my last trip and it reminded me of just how good this dish can be and how easy it is to prepare. A specialty of Naples, this is a typical example of Italian uncooked or “crudo” sauces. It\’s a perfect example of how very simple, flawless ingredients can create something incredible.

Ideally, it is best in the height of summer when the tomatoes are bursting, but it’s not too hard to find good quality cherry tomatoes in the colder months, and summer is almost here, so why not give it a try? Its very good and best of all it’s delicious and healthy.



2 cups cherry tomatoes sliced in half

1 small bunch basil, torn into pieces

3 cloves of garlic, sliced

2 tsp dried chili 

1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
A few grindings of Black Pepper

1 lb dried Pasta

Parmesan Cheese, or suitable substitute
1 Anchovy fillet, minced – Optional
1/2 lb full milk Mozzarella or Barrata, cut into smallish chunks – Optional

Combine all ingredients except pasta in a glass bowl and cover and let rest for 1-2 hours. There is no need to refrigerate.
Boil water, add salt and prepare pasta to directions. Once done, drain and combine with sauce, add salt to taste and finish with a little additional Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

Arugula Salad with Blue Cheese and Fig Vinaigrette

This is a fantastic salad to start off a special meal. It is hearty in flavor, so make sure to follow it with something dramatic, or include it as part of a grilled meal. 


Even better, make a lot, add some bread and a nice bottle of Johannesburg Riesling and make it into a meal.


8 cups of Arugula or a mesculin mix of greens
1 cup of crumbled Blue Cheese, either Maytag Blue or Roquefort would be perfect
½ cup roasted or candied Pecans 
½ cup Pecan or Walnut oil, any other vegetable oil can be substituted, but not olive oil.
½ cup Balsamic Vinegar
¼ cup Green Onions
½ tsp. Sugar
Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper to taste
5 to 6 dried Mission Figs, depending on the size.
Thoroughly wash the greens and let them sit in the colander to drain. They should be completely dry before tossing.
Toast the pecans in a preheated 175 degree oven on a cookie sheet for just 4 to 5 min. Watch them so they don’t burn. If using candied pecans, they don’t need to be roasted.
Now, put the figs, oil, vinegar, sugar and salt and pepper into the food processor. A small mini version food processor is perfect for this. I find that I can emulsify the vinaigrette much better, if the oil is chilled. Make it by adding a little oil at a time, as in a classical vinaigrette preparation. Mix thoroughly until the vinaigrette is thickened and emulsified.
Take your greens and toss with the blue cheese, Green onions, pecans and then the vinaigrette. Toss thoroughly and serve immediately.