There’s no English translation for the title of this pasta dish because either it's the Roman diminutive of the name Francesca, which is one theory, or it's a slightly vulgar Roman joke based on the presence of fennel seeds in another version of this recipe. I won't elaborate further but those who know Italian slang quite well will be able to work it out.
Anyhow, there's no clue in the name as to the ingredients so you’ll just have to look at the photo opposite and read further to see if it’s your cup of tea. It’s certainly mine and I first came across this version of it while watching my favorite Roman chef, Max Mariola, who I have written about before, (together with a video link) when describing Spaghetti all’Amatriciana.
Pasta alla Checca is a fabulous pasta dish with fresh summer ingredients designed to be eaten at room temperature, warmed only by the heat of the freshly cooked pasta. It’s healthy, simple to prepare and tastes great. And it has quickly become one of our favorite hot weather pasta dishes, perhaps because just like Pesto Genovese there is very little cooking involved and as our kitchen faces the hot evening sun the last thing I want to do in summer is to use i fornelli any longer than absolutely necessary when preparing dinner.
Ingredients for 2 people:
280 grams (10 oz) linguine or spaghetti
3 or 4 cipollotti (spring or green onions)
2 large ripe tomatoes (Canestrino or Cuore di Bue would be ideal)
about 200 grams (7 oz) mozzarella di bufala (outside Italy fior di latte, ie cow’s milk mozzarella is fine and is also widely used here in Italy because it’s cheaper and often indistinguishable from bufala mozzarella)
up to 40 grams (1.5 oz) freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
big handful of fresh basil
extra virgin Italian olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
(Note that Italian language recipes often use the abbreviation q.b. which means quanto basta and signifies that the amount of a particular ingredient is a matter of personal choice. I should really do the same because the quantity of the various ingredients for this recipe and all the others on this website is really more a question of personal preference).
1. Clean and dice the cipollotti including as much of the green stems that are edible and sautė gently in olive oil for 5 minutes or so, adding any of the stems of the basil that you would otherwise discard.
2. Put the linguine or spaghetti in salted boiling water.
3. Slice the tomatoes quite thinly and chop the mozzarella into 1 or 2 inch chunks.
4. Grate the parmigiano and tear the basil leaves.
5. When the pasta is almost ready add the ingredients to a shallow dish as shown in the photograph above. Put one layer of tomatoes on the bottom then half the cipollotti and basil and some of the mozzarella.
6. Add salt and pepper and good olive oil to these ingredients before adding the pasta.
7. Add the remaining tomato slices, basil, mozzarella and additional salt, pepper and olive oil as necessary.
8. Mix everything well and then add the grated parmigiano, the remaining basil and another drizzle of high quality olive oil and serve.