Pasta Alla Checca

Pasta Alla Checca is an authentic and traditional dish from Rome. It features fresh and simple ingredients, something you will find often in Italian cuisine.

Pasta Alla Checca on a plate.

What Is Pasta Alla Checca?

Pasta Alla Checca is an Italian dish that originates in Roman cuisine. It consists of pasta tossed with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, basil, and extra virgin olive oil.

The dish is known for its clean flavors and simplicity, making it one of the roman favorites during the summer season, when it’s mainly consumed thanks to the tomatoes being at their peak.

Checca pasta is usually found in the tavole calde or coffee bars in Rome since it can be served cold and on the go, making it a perfect meal for those in a hurry.

The word “checca” is quite famous in Italian. There is a legend that says it comes from the cook’s name who invented the dish: Francesca, which the diminutive is checca. But there’s no actual record that this is the real origin of the dish name.

Pasta Alla Checca in a plate on a concrete surface.

Why You Should Make It

  • Simplicity: It features just a few ingredients and it only requires cooking the pasta, cutting tomatoes and cheese, and tossing everything with olive oil and seasonings. It can’t get easier than this!
  • Is fresh: Perfect for the warm season, the ingredients are just perfect to yield a fresh meal to enjoy any day of the week.
  • Can be made ahead: Because this is a cold pasta dish, it can be made ahead and stored for a quick lunch or dinner or to bring to a potluck.
  • Is versatile: You can use any type of pasta you want, from short to long pasta, and you can make it with any type of fresh tomato available to you.

The Simple Ingredients

  • Pasta: The main ingredient of the dish is pasta. Traditionally, this Roman dish is made from either spaghetti, penne, or linguine pasta. However, you can also choose any shape available in your kitchen pantry.
  • Tomatoes: I like to use fresh cherry tomatoes because are perfect for this dish. They are juicy, concentrated, and sweet. Anyway, this dish can be made with any kind of tomato.
  • Mozzarella: You can either shred fresh mozzarella or cut it into cubes. Fresh mozzarella is the one that comes packed in whey, not the one shredded in bags.
  • Basil leaves: Fresh basil has a distinct, robust flavor of its own and adds an extra fresh kick. 
  • Extra virgin olive oil: Because of the simplicity of this pasta dish, I really recommend using good quality extra virgin olive oil. 
  • Seasonings: Salt and pepper are all I use.

Related article: What’s the difference between regular olive oil and extra virgin olive oil?

Heirloom tomatoes on a dark, green, wood surface.

How To Make Pasta Alla Checca

Place cherry tomatoes (or regular tomatoes, diced) into a large bowl.

Add a generous glug of extra virgin olive oil (about 5 tablespoons), and then add a bunch of basil leaves tearing them with your hands.

Preparing the checca sauce: Adding oil to the bowl with tomatoes and basil leaves.

Generously season with salt and pepper, mix well and let the mixture rest for about 15 minutes (while you cook pasta). 

Place a large pot with water over high heat. Once the water starts to boil, add salt and pasta. Cook until your desired consistency (al dente, very soft, etc).

Drain pasta and add it to the bowl with tomatoes while is still hot, this will help tomatoes to soften just a little, making the pasta a little juicier. 

Pasta alla Checca just made in a mixing bowl.

Mix well and allow to reach room temperature. Add mozzarella, mix again, adjust with salt and pepper and serve.

Notes

  • Make sure you allow the tomato mixture to rest, salt will help the tomatoes to release some juice which will flavor the pasta and keep it juicy. Nobody likes dry pasta!
  • Do not add the mozzarella cheese when the pasta is still hot or it will melt and make a mess. If you want to eat this pasta later, is better if the cheese keeps its shape.
  • On the other hand, tossing the hot pasta with fresh tomatoes will help them to soften and make the wonderful checca sauce.
  • Some Italian chefs recommend tossing a few garlic cloves, peeled and lightly smashed with the back of a knife, with tomatoes. Garlic will infuse the fresh checca sauce with its wonderful flavor and aroma.
  • You can also spice it up with red chili flakes (peperoncino) or use a pinch of oregano.
  • Remember that the main idea is to enjoy the natural flavors of the ingredients and don’t overpower them with spices.

How To Store

Pasta Alla Checca lasts up to 3 days nicely stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Freezing is not recommended.

It can also last several hours at room temperature if it’s not too high (remember that tomatoes spoil fast in hot environments). So is perfect to bring to potlucks or to serve at parties.

More Italian Pasta Recipes

  • Spaghetti alla Puttanesca: Tomatoes, olives, and cappers make this simple yet scrumptious sauce for pasta.
  • Pasta Peperonata: This dish is packed with Italian flavors and made with fresh peppers.
  • Zesty Italian salad: Get all Mediterranean flavors in this pasta salad, and you can even customize it to your liking!
  • Spaghetti alla Nerano: Not your traditional creamy zucchini pasta, this dish doesn’t even need cream to make it utterly delicious!
Pasta alla checca on a deep plate seen from above.

Pasta Alla Checca

author Maricruz
4
Pasta alla checca is a simple, yet delicious pasta dish made with fresh tomatoes, basil, olive oil, and mozzarella. What makes this dish stand out is its simplicity.
prep 5 minutes
cook 10 minutes
total 15 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 11 oz spaghetti or linguine (uncooked)
  • 1.1 lb ripe cherry tomatoes (halved)
  • 9 oz fresh mozzarella (diced)
  • bunch basil leaves
  • 4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper (to taste)

Instructions
 

  • Place cherry tomatoes (or regular tomatoes, diced) into a large bowl.
  • Add extra virgin olive oil, and then add a bunch of basil leaves tearing them with your hands.
  • Generoully season with salt and pepper, mix well and let the mixture to rest for about 15 minutes (while you cook pasta).
  • Place a large pot with water over high heat. Once the water starts to boil, add salt and pasta.
  • Cook until your desired consistency (al dente, very soft, etc).
  • Drain pasta and add it to the bowl with tomatoes while is still hot, this will help tomatoes to soften just a little to make the sauce juicier.
  • Mix well and allow to reach room temperature.
  • Add mozzarella, mix again, adjust with salt and pepper and serve.

Notes

  • Make sure you allow the tomato mixture to rest, salt will help the tomatoes to release some juice which will flavor the pasta and keep it juicy.
  • Do not add the mozzarella cheese when the pasta is still hot or it will melt and make a mess. If you want to eat this pasta later, is better if the cheese keeps its shape.
  • On the other hand, tossing the hot pasta with tomatoes will help them to soften and make the wonderful checca sauce.
  • Some Italian chefs recommend tossing a clove of garlic, peeled and lightly smashed with the back of a knife, with tomatoes. It will infuse the fresh sauce with its wonderful flavor and aroma.
  • You can also spice it up with red chili flakes (peperoncino) or use a pinch of oregano.
Nutrition Information
Calories: 627kcal | Carbohydrates: 65g | Protein: 25g | Fat: 30g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Cholesterol: 50mg | Sodium: 419mg | Potassium: 494mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 1041IU | Vitamin C: 28mg | Calcium: 352mg | Iron: 2mg
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