I have to admit, when Heff put out the challenge this month and picked bow-tie pasta as the challenge ingredient, well...I was initially going to pass. I mean how was I going to encompass the wonder that is dried pasta in a way that doesn't diminish it's complexities. There is only so much one can do with pasta and I wasn't sure that I was up to the task.
It's actually a fun idea to pick something that just about anyone can find a recipe for. I'm looking forward to lots and lots of creative recipes for pasta of all shapes and sizes. Here is mine:
Farfalle con Pomodorini, Basilico e Pancetta
(Bow-tie Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes, Basil and Pancetta)
About a year ago, Gia took me to an incredible Italian Restaurant in NYC called San Pietro. There was a pasta dish that they made that she raved about. Said I must try it. It was very simple...just spaghetti, cherry tomatoes, olive oil and basil. But the freshness of each ingredient is what made the dish so special. And the wonderful thing about San Pietro is that they offer recipes for many of their dishes on their website. So I borrowed this one. And added pancetta to the mix. Why? Because pancetta is Italian for BACON!!!
Bippity boppity bacon!
There's a nice pic of all the ingredients with a view of the harbor from our back yard. It's better than the view of our kitchen wallpaper.
1 pound bow-tie pasta
2 garlic cloves
1 pound cherry tomatoes quartered
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small bunch of fresh basil
1/2 pound pancetta cut thick and diced
Salt & Pepper to taste
I wound up doubling the ingredients and making a huge batch because I was serving dinner for 4. And I don't know about you, but 1/4 pound of pasta ain't gonna do it for me. Or Gia. Or her father. But you do what you gotta do.
- Brown the pancetta in one tablespoon of olive oil until nice and crispy. Then drain and set aside on some paper towels to get rid of the extra grease.
- Heat the remaining olive oil in a large pan and add the two cloves of garlic. The recipe doesn't state specifically that you should crush the garlic, but I did...to release the garlicky goodness. Saute until the garlic is nice and soft and then remove with a slotted spoon.
- Add the quartered cherry tomatoes and any juice left over when cutting them up. As soon as the tomatoes are steaming, reduce heat to medium-low and cook for around 7 minutes.
- Add as much basil as you like to the tomatoes, stir and cook for another 2 minutes
- Add the crispy pancetta to the mix (see note at the end of the post) and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Finally add the cooked pasta (al dente) to the mix and heat for another minute or so. Make sure you don't overcook the pasta.
The perfect plate
As you can see, it's not a difficult recipe. The key is to use the best and freshest ingredients. I wasn't going to make my own bow-tie pasta so I used store-bought. But be sure to spend the additional money for the extra-virgin olive oil. It makes a big difference. As do the freshest cherry tomatoes and basil that you can find. I used Boar's Head pancetta from my local supermarket Deli counter, but I'm sure there are some wonderful Italian stores around that sell pancetta imported from Italy.
Turned out to be a delicous meal for us that night. We all went back for seconds and thirds. The garlic-infused olive oil goes so well with the fresh basil and sweet cherry tomatoes. It's so simple it defies logic. I would highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for some quick and easy, but at the same time slightly exotic.
One last suggestion: Next time I make this I'm not going to add the crispy pancetta to the sauce in the pan. I'm going to sprinkle it over each dish. When you add it to the sauce, the pancetta loses it's crispiness and kind of gets lost in the mix. And bacon, my friends, takes a back seat to no one!
Note: Remember to play the Bug-Eyed Trivia Challenge every day. Did I mention that pancetta is Italian for BACON?