reverse european weekend pasta: orecchiete with zucchini and arugula

The early dr bob lined-paper recipe-log notepads had quite a few pasta improvisations that had no storyline attached. Good enough to remember but no catchy hook for entertainment value. They finally met official death with the first dr bob cd tying-up-loose-ends campaign in 2002 after years of being carried along hopefully in the table of contents listing. Several orecchiette recipes were among this crowd. Perhaps even as good as this one. Which was inspired by the summer of 2002 six week dr bob Rome trip with no ms_ani visit to break up the long separation.

Regular trips to Rome financed by somebody's academic research funds provide the dr bob cooking team with new kitchen ideas for back home. Interesting ingredient combinations registered for later first hand application. At least those that the team can actually remember after the trip. And recently crossing the mid-century mark has not done any favors to bob's already diminished memory capacity. This trip bob remembers a side dish combo: boiled potatoes, artichoke hearts, and cooked green fava beans warmed together in a skillet with butter and served. Fava beans look remarkably like our own familiar lima beans but apparently they are distinct and preferred in the Mediterranean. They come wrapped in an extra layer inside the pod that requires additional labor to remove. And then there was that penne pasta dish with zucchini and rughetta, the roman name for arugula, the stuff which is now readily available in the states for some years now but which is rounded, while the real thing over there has jagged edged leaves and is supposedly more potent.

Did we mention that Big Pharma is wrecking ani and bob's constitutional right to the pursuit of happiness through a sane vacation policy? Or was that in the Declaration of Independence? Something we should probably remember after all the visits to Independence Hall we've made with friends from out of town. Come to think of it, as burbites from the Philly Main Line we also qualify as out-of-towners. Anyway, getting back to the point, for nine years ms_ani worked for Small Pharma (biotech). With three weeks vacation per year from the start. Then she moved up to Big Pharma and got cut back to two weeks with a 5 year waiting period to get back the stolen third week and some fraction of a lifetime more to ratchet that up to 4. Did we also mention that when you examine the details, a US vacation week is really only 5 days, so this 2 weeks means 10 lousy days. Did we also mention that Big Pharma makes about 3 times the average profit of American industries and owes its production success to a highly sophisticated work force in research and development? Wouldn't it make sense to keep these worker bees happy? And nobody except the top brass seems happy with this retro vacation policy, although with some poetic justice, 2002 seems to be the year that the top brass class is finally being caught with their pants down while conning everybody to rip off the system. This probably won't help the vacation problem go away though.

This ongoing vacation conflict came to a head with the 2002 annual dr bob summer visit to Rome. 3 vacation days already used up on one long spring break weekend visit to Paris for the quiche recipe acquisition (2 days) and one short weekend to Rome for our first cooking school student's wedding to Adele (1 day). [Weekend trips to Europe may seem a bit crazy, but what can a wage slave do when given no alternative?] Only 7 days left and ms_ani decides to pass on the usual mid trip visit to bob this summer and save 5 for a fall break nobody-to-see, no-schedule-to-follow Caribbean beach vacation. As opposed to her everybody-to-see Italian vacations involving trains, buses and boats moving us around in a desperate attempt to maintain our many friendships there.

After 4 weeks the 4th of July (Thursday) long weekend arrives and the prospect of waiting another 2 weeks still for a reunion simply elevates itself to the status of cruel and unusual punishment. The only solution? The reverse European weekend trip. Fly back unannounced to surprise ms_ani. And cook up some delicious pasta while in town. Air France had the low budget weekend special through Paris. Half what bob paid for his indirect flight high season flight to Rome through Paris booked months in advance (since the direct flights were sold out at reasonable fares). And bought less than 24 hours before departure. Which was the same 7am flight bob had had some previous experience with a few summers before, but this time armed with his own European cell phone needed for the 4:50am taxi reservation, although still trapped in a window seat due to Air France's continued unreasonable preflight seat reservation policy.

Back at home base, looking for a light dinner concept for two, bob remembers the zucchini and arugula. And impulse buys a companion ingredient (orange bell pepper). And some red onion borrowed from the salad idea acquired from Guido the night before in Baltimore (see below). The bell pepper came to mind from the leek and red and yellow pepper vegetarian substitution for the ham in Pascale's quiche recipe that had been realized the day before as well. And which bob had silently objected to thinking the pepper might be too heavy when in fact it turned out great. A splash of wine thrown in for good measure from the chilled French white already being sipped by the cooks. Served with the arugula and shaved parma tomato salad. Another success. This time with an accompanying story line.


2 T olive oil
1/4 c red onion, chopped finely
1 medium orange (or red or yellow) pepper, chopped finely
3 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise, then sliced thinly.
1 plum tomato, liquified by a hand blender
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 c white wine
1/4 c pasta water
3/4 c finely chopped arugula
1 lb orecchiette, cooked al dente
1/3 c parmigiano, freshly grated


  1. Start the pasta water boiling and when boiling, throw in some salt and cook the pasta al dente. Farfalle, fusilli or penne or some other short pasta would also work here.
  2. Meanwhile, wash and finely chop the arugula.
  3. Chop the red onion and optional color choice bell pepper.
  4. Wash and cut the zucchini as described.
  5. Sauté the onion and pepper in olive oil until both are softened.
  6. Then add the zucchini and some salt and pepper.
  7. After 10 minutes throw in the optional wine and evaporate off.
  8. Puree the tomato and incorporate. Continue cooking.
  9. Throw in some pasta water stolen from the pasta in progress and continue, say 20 minutes total from the zucchini insertion point.
  10. Stir in the arugula and combine with the al dente pasta and parmigiano.
  11. Serve with extra grated parmigiano and freshly ground black pepper.


  1. Reverse European weekend: Friday midday arrival, Monday afternoon departure. Ani calls in sick Monday, encouraged by bob as on other occasions where a special day was needed. You gotta do what you gotta do, in defense of individual rights.
  2. Big Pharma. You could read about its evils in the cover article of the April 9, 2001 The Nation by spy novelist John Le Carre' if they weren't themselves so greedy about charging for access.
  3. Arugula and shaved parmigiano tomato salad:
    A handful of arugula. Washed of course. 2 plum tomatoes or the equivalent, chopped, then marinated with olive oil and a balsamic vinegar and 1/8 c finely chopped red onion. Combined with the arugula and shaved parmigiano when ready for serving. Simple.
rewpsta.htm: 16-aug-2006 [what, ME cook? © 1984 dr bob enterprises]