orecchiette with potatoes arugula and mushrooms

We picked up a pair of Paula Wolfert Mediterranean cookbooks some time ago, one for a present, and one for us. It sat on the shelf. A long time. Finally when we needed a fresh food idea for a rainy Labor day weekend Saturday night, bob grabs the paperback and opens it up and within a few seconds leafs his way to orecchiette con patate e rucola. The combo was perfect since everything was in the fridge, including some white mushrooms that begged to join the party (coaxed by ani). Paula's recipe is adapted from a Pugliese cookbook. Puglia is the province of Italy where they do orecchiette and cavatelli and fava bean puree. All favorites of ours. Our recipe is adapted from hers.

We only had two little purple potatoes left in the fridge, but they made a terrific color contrast with the green arugula and the light colored pasta and the grayish cooked mushrooms. The recipe called for a grated sheep's milk cheese like ricotta salata, but that was a special trip we were not about to make, so we substituted pecorino romano which is usually on hand as a staple, also a sheep cheese though quite different in texture from ricotta salata.


1/2 lb orecchiette (half a pound since we're trying to lower our carb loading temptation level)
2 c packed arugula leaves, the jagged kind only (maybe 7oz)
1 medium potato, diced to make 1 c
2 T olive oil
1 garlic clove, sliced or pressed
1/4 t red pepper flakes, or more to taste
about 8 typical white mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1/3 c graded sheep's milk cheese like pecorino romano (or ricotta salata)
freshly grated black pepper
salt to taste (if needed)
additional grated cheese and black pepper to top off the portions


  1. Do the pasta water prep: get a big pasta pot of water boiling.
  2. Prepare the potatoes by peeling and cubing (< 1cm cubes), wash the arugula if necessary.
  3. When boiling toss in the usual amount of salt (we always guess wildly) and the potatoes and arugula and cook about 5 minutes, then toss in the pasta and cook until al dente, say 8 to 10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile prep the mushrooms and sauté the garlic with the red pepper flakes briefly and then add the mushrooms and continue for another 2 minutes on low heat. Then turn off the burner.
  5. When the pasta is done, drain and return to the pot and combine with the sauce, grated cheese and some freshly grated black pepper, and adjust for salt.
  6. Enjoy with a good salad.


  1. Paula Wolfert, Mediterranean Cooking (Revised Edition). We gave Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean as the gift, based on the Turkish connection between the book and the giftee. Thanks for your attention to the Mediterranean. Great food location.
  2. Summer 2006: we enjoyed our first whole wheat orecchiette carried back to Rome from Puglia by dr bob cooking school alumnus Gianpaolo and cooked by Adele. Apparently they are not easy to find anywhere else. Too bad.
  3. For our salad, we used some of the arugula, a nice tomato, a Persian cucumber, one quarter of an avocado, the leaves from a sprig of fresh mint, and a red pepper variation of our usual salad dressing: some (extra virgin cold pressed of course) olive oil, a small garlic clove pressed and crushed into the oil with a pestle (mortar and pestle), a touch of salt, black pepper and Middle Eastern red pepper, a squirt of lemon juice (yes, we cheated this time and used a yellow plastic container).
  4. Illustrations available.
orecpam.htm: 5-sep-2006 [what, ME cook? © 1984 dr bob enterprises]