Well, I had no idea that the word “arugula” did not exist prior to the 1960’s. It’s an anglicized version of the Italian rucola, itself a version of the Latin name Eruca. In other parts of the world, this plant is called roquette or simply rocket. Whatever we call it, fundamentally it is an edible herb, originally cultivated in the Mediterranean. It has a wonderful, pungent, peppery flavor.
I also have to admit that I have never really considered using it in a pasta sauce… My change of heart came after a conversation with one Mr. Eric Moore, a fellow food lover, who talked about adding arugula to a sausage and tomato sauce that he and his wife would make for “at home” dates. Always on the spy for a new culinary treat, I decided to give it a try.
My research showed that arugula is actually used quite a lot in Italian cooking, especially in tomato sauces and on pizza. Well, I didn’t really need to do much research to justify this experiment, as Eric’s tastes are quite trustworthy. But it didn’t hurt that his suggestion had the backing of the Italian masters!
I decided to use ravioli for this attempt, mostly because I love ravioli, but also because my daughter was going to be out of town. She’s normally the one to make our fresh pasta at home, and although I know how to do it, it just doesn’t “feel” right unless she does it! Ha ha! So, I opted for the next best thing to freshly made: store-bought fresh (the kind you find in a refrigerated section). And of those choices, the ravioli looked the best. So, ravioli it was.
Mostly following Eric’s description, but adding a few tweaks here and there to suit my own particular tastes, here is what we got, and how we got it.
20 oz. fresh ravioli (I used a cheese-stuffed variety)
1 pound mild Italian sausage
2 T regular olive oil
8 cocktail tomatoes (or a 12-14 cherry tomatoes), whole
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T apple cider vinegar
2 t crushed red pepper (optional)
2 T extra virgin olive oil
Salt, pepper to taste
2 big handfuls arugula
Grated Parmesan to serve
Get a pan on medium heat and add the regular olive oil. Start a large pot of water on high heat for cooking the pasta.
In the hot pan, add the full lengths of sausage. Brown all over, then remove from the pan (they will finish cooking later). Cut the sausage into 1/2 inch slices and set aside. Add the garlic to the pan, let it get aromatic (about 30 seconds), then add the whole tomatoes and crushed red pepper (if using). Toss them about to coat with oil and garlic. Return the sausage to the pan. Add vinegar, toss everything together, then cover and let cook for 5 minutes.
Remove the cover, flip all the sausage slices over, cover and cook another 5 minutes. Remove the cover and press each tomato until juices just flow (we’re not trying to smash them, just “pop” them open). Season with salt and pepper, mix fully. Remove from heat and set aside.
In the pot of boiling water, add your fresh ravioli. Cook only for 3 minutes, then immediately drain – reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Toss the ravioli with the extra virgin olive oil.
Add the ravioli to the pan with the sauce and return to medium-high heat. Once the liquids start boiling, add the reserved pasta water. Stir and cook for a few minutes until everything comes together.
Finally, remove from heat, add the arugula, and stir together. Serve immediately with Parmesan and additional black pepper as desired.