This is my interpretation of a dish I first ate in a local trattoria in Testaccio called Da Felice. It is simply cherry tomatoes marinated in really good olive oil with fresh basil, fresh mint and oregano, tossed with spaghetti and topped with grated salted ricotta and a good blob of creamy fresh ricotta.
The key to the dish is that the tomatoes are firm but perfectly ripe, preferably on the vine, and full of sweet fruitiness balanced by just enough acidity, the ones you want to pop in your mouth like sweets.
As always, use the highest quality dried spaghetti you can afford – it is worth it. Finally a note about cooking spaghetti, it is essential you use a large, deeper than it is wide pan so the spaghetti has plenty of room to roll around, 1 litre of water for every 100g of spaghetti. Salt the water well, 10g to every litre, this is the quantity you need to produce a perfectly seasoned pasta in this quantity of water, it will be disappointing otherwise.
Spaghetti alla Felice
- 400g Dried Spaghetti
- 500g of sweet vine ripened cherry tomatoes,
- 5 tbsp excellent olive oil,
- 4 basil leaves and 4 mint leaves ripped into small pieces
- a good pinch of dried oregano,
- freshly ground black pepper,
- 200g of fresh goats cheese ricotta,
- 100g of salted ricotta, grated.
Wash, dry and cut the cherry tomatoes in quarters and place in a bowl large enough to also accommodate the spaghetti with the ripped basil, mint and olive oil, sprinkle over the oregano and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, stir well and set aside to marinade for 30mins so the flavours can mingle.
While the tomatoes are marinating bring a large, deep pan of water to the boil, salt it well and bring to a rolling boil. By now the tomatoes should have been marinating for 20mins so you can add the spaghetti to the rolling water, fanning out the strands and gently using the back of a wooden spoon to ease them under the water, stir well to stop the strands sticking and recover the pan so it can come back up to a fast boil at which point you can remove the lid.
Once the spaghetti is cooked to Al dente perfection immediately remove from heat, quickly drain, and tip into the marinated tomatoes. Toss everything together carefully allowing the marinade to coat the spaghetti and the tomatoes to disperse. Divide between 4 shallow bowls, making sure you divide the delicious oily, herby juices at the bottom of the bowl between the portions. Sprinkle plenty of the grated salted ricotta over each plate and top with a generous blob of fresh ricotta.