A Classic “Go-To” Italian Summer Pasta Recipe That Never Disappoints: Pasta Alla Checca
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Meet Pamela Salzman
Let’s delve into the world of Pamela Salzman, a renowned cooking instructor and food writer living by the beach in Southern California.
SIMPLE, FRESH, AND AUTHENTIC ITALIAN CUISINE
A Classic “Go-To” Italian Summer Pasta Recipe That Never Disappoints: Pasta Alla Checca
If you’re a fan of simple, fresh, and authentic Italian cuisine, you’re in for a treat! Today, we’re diving into the culinary world of Pamela Salzman, a well-known professional cook, author, and cooking instructor who lives just a stone’s throw from the beach in Southern California.
Pamela’s passion for food is contagious, and her expertise in the kitchen is unrivaled. The Public Market team was thrilled to meet her at her lovely home and discover how to make (and eat) this delightful summer pasta recipe.
Get ready to discover the authentic flavors of one of her favorite summer pasta recipes—a classic Italian summer dish that’s simple, fresh, and delicious: Pasta Alla Checca. In case you’re wondering, it’s pronounced Pasta Alla (KAY-CA), which is a traditional Roman vegetarian pasta recipe with a fresh uncooked sauce of fresh basil, mozzarella, and tomatoes.
Watch Pamela whip up her beloved family summer pasta recipe in the video below.
Pamela Salzman: A Cooking Enthusiast with Italian Roots
Pamela Salzman, originally from Long Island, hails from a family deeply rooted in Italian heritage. Her father, raised in a small town called Benevento just outside Naples, was one of eight children in a lively Italian household. Growing up, Pamela’s childhood revolved around the tantalizing aromas of her family’s cooking, especially during the summer months.
Pasta Alla Checca: A Fresh Twist on Italian Pasta Dishes
One dish that brings back fond memories for Pamela is Pasta Alla Checca. This vegetarian pasta recipe features a raw tomato and basil sauce that bursts with freshness. The secret to its success lies in the quality of the tomatoes used. Pamela insists on using the best tomatoes available, preferably the large, ripe ones. Living by the beach in Southern California, she doesn’t have a big backyard to grow her own, but she knows just where to find the finest organic tomatoes from local vendors.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Pasta Alla Checca
Here’s a step-by-step recipe to make Pamela’s Pasta Alla Checca.
- 2 pounds ripe tomatoes, about 6 medium (or more if you like a high ratio of tomatoes to pasta)
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- ¼ cup torn or sliced fresh basil leaves
- ¼ cup unrefined, cold pressed extra-virgin olive oil
- Sea salt to taste (I think ¾ teaspoon is about right.)
- 1 pound dried pasta (I like a pasta which catches the tomatoes, such as spaghetti, orrecchiette or conchiglie. My mom always made it with spaghetti.)
- Kosher salt to season the pasta water
- Optional: Fresh Mozzarella
- In a pot large enough to fit the tomatoes, fill ¾ with water and bring to a boil (“instant hot” from your sink won’t work, already tried it.)
- Cutting through the skin, make an “x” on the bottom of each tomato with a knife. Turn the heat off and submerge the tomatoes in the water for 20-30 seconds, depending on the size of the tomatoes.
- Remove the tomatoes from the water with a slotted spoon and place on a cutting board. Peel (non-negotiable), core, seed (if you want) and chop the tomatoes.
- Place the tomatoes in a serving bowl. Add the garlic, basil, olive oil, and a few healthy pinches of sea salt to taste. Toss to combine.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 Tablespoon kosher salt. Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions or until al dente.
- Remove 1 cup of pasta cooking water and reserve (you won’t need it if your tomatoes are juicy.) Drain the pasta. Immediately add to the serving bowl with the tomatoes and toss to combine, adding reserved pasta cooking liquid if necessary to moisten the pasta.
- Remove garlic before serving, if desired.
- Start by blanching the tomatoes to remove the skins. Cut a small “x” on the bottom of each tomato, then submerge them in boiling water for about 20-30 seconds. The skins will peel off easily.
- Once peeled, core, seed (if desired), and chop the tomatoes. Place them in a serving bowl.
- Add crushed garlic, torn or sliced fresh basil leaves, a drizzle of unrefined, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil, and a sprinkle of sea salt to the tomatoes. Give it a good toss to combine all the flavors.
- In a separate pot, bring water to a boil and season generously with kosher salt. Cook your choice of pasta—linguini, bucatini, or spaghetti—according to the package instructions until al dente.
- Drain the pasta and immediately transfer it to the serving bowl with the tomato mixture. Toss everything together, allowing the flavors to mingle. If needed, add some reserved pasta cooking water to moisten the dish.
- Remove the garlic cloves before serving, if desired, and get ready to experience the authentic taste of Italy.
Pamela’s Pasta Alla Checca Tips and Tricks
As you embark on your Pasta All Checca adventure, here are a few tips from Pamela to ensure your dish turns out perfectly:
- Quality is Key: Seek out the best tomatoes you can find. The success of this vegetarian pasta recipe hinges on their amazing flavor.
- Embrace Al Dente: For a healthier twist, cook your pasta al dente. This slightly firm texture adds a delightful chewiness to the dish.
- A Burst of Flavor: Cheese makes everything better. Add some fresh mozzarella to the sauce. The heat from the pasta will melt the cheese slightly, creating a creamy, indulgent experience.
Pamela Salzman: Sharing Her Love for Cooking
Pamela Salzman isn’t just passionate about food; she finds joy in sharing her knowledge with others. Her mission is to help people lead healthier lives by preparing delicious meals at home. Pamela’s expertise extends beyond Italian cuisine, as she teaches various cooking classes, both online and in-person,covering a wide range of culinary delights.
From Mediterranean feasts to vegan creations, Pamela’s classes are a gateway to exploring the world of flavors.
Pamela’s journey into the world of cooking started at a young age. While other kids were out playing, she found herself in the kitchen, baking and experimenting with recipes. Her father, an avid gardener and cook, instilled in her a love for fresh produce and cooking delicious food. Her mother was an avid reader of Gourmet Magazine and also cooked often for the extended family.
But it wasn’t just the love for cooking that shaped Pamela’s culinary prowess. Her Italian roots played a significant role as well.
Pasta Alla Checca, for example, was a staple in their household. Her mother and father prepared every week during the summers. It was a testament to their connection with their heritage and the importance of family traditions.
Pamela’s passion for languages and accents eventually led her to California, where she moved for her then boyfriend, now husband. She embraced the vibrant culinary scene of the West Coast, adding new flavors and techniques to her repertoire.
Most people have a dish from their childhood that they love and can recreate with ease. For Pamela, that dish is none other than Pasta Alla Checca. It holds a special place in her heart, evoking memories of family, sun-kissed tomatoes, and the comforting aroma of basil that makes for the perfect summer pasta recipe.
As Pamela reflects on her experiences, she emphasizes the importance of using high-quality ingredients. In the case of Pasta Alla Checca, the success of the dish hinges on finding the most exquisite tomatoes available. While she may not have a sprawling backyard to grow her own, Pamela knows that sourcing the best tomatoes makes all the difference.
So, if you’re looking to savor the taste of a classic Italian summer dish, give Pasta Alla Checca a try. Let the simplicity of fresh summer tomatoes, fragrant basil, and the art of al dente pasta transport you to the sunny beaches of Italy.
And remember, as Pamela Salzman would say, if you can read, you can cook—and creating something as delicious as this best Pasta Alla Checca recipe is well within your reach.
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"My sisters and I used to fight over every piece of mozzarella."
– Professional Cook and Food Influencer Pamela Salzman
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