Tag Archives: gemelli

Recipe: Pasta in Cream Sauce with Pancetta and Pecorino Romano

18 Jun

With three children away from home, and the fourth frequently out and about, my husband and I are adapting to eating dinner by ourselves. It is a necessary exercise; in one more year, we will be empty nesters. We have made some adjustments, but not all recipes for six translate easily into a meal for two, so I am beginning to rethink my approach to dinner. Luckily, this recipe is very adaptable and can easily be scaled down (or back up).

It’s also quick, which makes it perfect for a busy week night. But more importantly, it will satisfy proponents of the two different schools of thought on pasta cream sauces. When this dish is first put on the table, the cream sauce will be fairly thin (as in the photo). In our family, there are staunch supporters of a thinner cream sauce; they say a more liquid consistency allows for maximum “soppage” with a nice piece of crusty bread. Other family members prefer a thicker sauce, which coats the pasta very nicely. Luckily, it’s possible to have it both ways: thinner-sauce aficionados can dig right in; thicker-sauce advocates can nibble on salad or bread and let the sauce cool a bit. Regardless of their sauce philosophies, family members agree on one thing: this is good to the last bite, thick or thin.

Note: Feel free to substitute Parmesan cheese for the Pecorino Romano, and bacon for the pancetta (I used bacon this time, after discovering at the last moment that the pancetta I thought I had in the freezer was a figment of my imagination).

Pasta in Cream Sauce with Pancetta and Pecorino Romano
Serves 2-3

1/2 lb. pasta (I used gemelli)
2 oz. cubed pancetta (in the U.S., Trader Joe’s sells a 4-0z. package*)–or 4 slices bacon, chopped
1/2 tbsp. olive oil
1 small clove garlic, sliced
1 c. half and half, which is half light cream and half milk (or you can use all light cream or heavy cream–the heavier the cream, the thicker the sauce)
small pinch salt
freshly ground pepper
1/2 c. grated Pecorino Romano cheese (or Parmesan)

Preparation

1. Bring an ample amount of water to boil in a medium pot and cook the pasta just until it is al dente.
2. While the water is coming to a boil, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a medium saucepan and cook the pancetta/bacon until crisp; remove the pancetta/bacon, place on a paper towel to drain, and set aside. Leave about 1/2 tbsp. of oil/drippings in the saucepan; discard the rest. Add the sliced garlic to the pan and cook just until golden (you do not want the garlic to burn). Remove the garlic and discard. Turn heat to low and add the half and half (or cream). Grind black pepper over the surface of the sauce. Add a small pinch of salt (be conservative at this stage because you’ll be adding salty bacon and cheese to the dish; you can adjust the seasonings afterward). Keep the sauce warm without letting it boil.
3. When the pasta is done, drain it well, return it to the pot, and immediately toss with the cheese. Add the reserved pancetta/bacon, mix well, and then pour the cream sauce over. Stir well and adjust the seasonings (I usually add more pepper at this stage). The sauce will appear thin at first, but will thicken as it cools.
4. Serve with salad and crusty bread.

*I stock up on packages of cubed pancetta and freeze them. Then, I add the cubed pancetta directly to the hot oil. It cooks (and crisps up) beautifully, and is oh-so convenient.

Recipe: Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes, Fresh Mozzarella, and Basil

18 Jul

This dish has two advantages: First, it is another fantastic meal for hot summer days since the only part of it that requires cooking is the pasta. Second, it is a very nice way to use up some of that bumper crop of cherry tomatoes or basil from the herb garden.

Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes, Fresh Mozzarella, and Basil
Serves 6

1 pint cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, or Roma cherry tomatoes
1 tsp. salt
freshly grated black pepper, to taste
1 7-8 oz. container bocconcini or ciliegine (baby mozzarella balls), drained
1 large clove garlic, very thinly sliced
1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp. finely shredded basil (can use an entire .75-oz. pkg from the store)
1 lb. trofie, gemelli, or any spiral pasta
1/3 c. grated Pecorino Romano (or Parmesan) cheese

Cut tomatoes in half and place in a medium bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add sliced garlic and olive oil; mix well and let marinate.

Cut the mozzarella balls into quarters (bocconcini) or halves (ciliegine). Add to tomatoes, folding in gently. Stack the basil leaves, roll them up tightly lengthwise, and slice finely, starting at one end of the roll and continuing until all the basil is nicely shredded. Sprinkle the basil on top of the tomato/mozzarella mixture.

Bring a large pot of water to boil; add a sprinkle of salt and the pasta and cook according to package directions just until pasta is al dente. Shortly before pasta is ready, remove about 1/2 c. of the cooking water and set aside.

Call all guests to the table; pasta waits for no one.

Drain pasta and return to pot. Pour tomato/mozzarella/basil mixture over drained pasta in pot and mix in the Pecorino Romano (or Parmesan) cheese. If pasta seems dry, add reserved cooking water, 1/4 c. at a time. Check seasonings; add more salt/pepper if necessary.

Serve immediately.