Sunday, January 11, 2009

About Pancetta with Recipes for Pasta with Squash, Arugula, and Pancetta & Pasta with Pork in Garlic-Wine Sauce (Ιταλική Πανσέτα με Ζυμαρικά)

Alaska has been having a cold snap.

I imagine many of you thinking, “So what else is new?” Even though Alaskans expect and are used to cold weather, the last couple weeks really have been colder than usual. To see what cold weather looks like, check out Marc Lester's
lovely photo-essay showing Southcentral Alaska’s chilly wonderland.

Hearty food, including pasta, is a good antidote for cold weather blues. One of my favorite ways to boost the flavor of winter pasta sauces is adding pancetta (cured Italian pork belly). Only a small amount of pancetta is needed improve the taste of savory sauces (a corollary to the principle that everything tastes better with bacon).

Salumi's hand-crafted pancetta

Pancetta is often sold in packages of very thinly cut pre-sliced meat. Although I use pre-sliced pancetta in a pinch, I mostly buy pancetta direct from the deli counter. I ask for either a chunk of pancetta, which I hand slice and dice at home, or have the deli staff cut the pancetta into slices the thickness of regular bacon. With thicker slices, eaters enjoy bursts of pancetta flavor when devouring the sauce; thinner slices tend to melt into the other flavors.

I was recently at Seattle’s
Metropolitan Market where I bought several pounds of hand-crafted pancetta from Salumi Artisan-Cured Meats. This is far and away the best pancetta I’ve ever eaten; Salumi’s hand-rolled pancetta is meaty, with superior texture and flavor. Although more expensive than pre-sliced pancetta, Salumi’s product is well worth the price, and may be ordered online.

Two delicious pasta sauces that benefit from pancetta are Pasta with Squash, Arugula, and Pancetta and Pasta with Pork in Garlic-Wine Sauce. Either is just right for even the coldest winter day.

Pasta with Squash, Arugula, and Pancetta
Serves 4

Inspired by Cookthink
If using artisan-cured pancetta, it may be quite salty, so be careful not to over-salt the other components of the dish.

Squash:
1 small Kabocha, butternut, or other winter squash, peeled and cut into 3/4” chunks (4 cups)
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Pancetta and Onions:
3 thick slices pancetta, cut in 1/2” dice (1/2 cup)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 cups diced onion, 1/2” dice
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. minced fresh garlic
2 Tbsp. minced fresh sage

Pasta:
1/2 pound casarecci or similarly shaped pasta
4 cups arugula, cleaned and roughly chopped
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Make the Squash: Preheat the oven to 515°F. On a baking sheet with rims, toss the squash cubes with olive oil, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Put the squash in the oven and immediately turn the heat down to 475°F. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, turning the squash cubes halfway though, until the squash is cooked through and lightly browned.

Put a large pot of salted water on a burner over high heat.

Make the Onions and Pancetta: Sauté the pancetta in olive oil until it begins to brown. Stir in the onions and freshly ground black pepper, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan, and sauté until the onions soften. If the onions start sticking to the bottom of the pan, add 1/4 – 1/2 cup water. When the onions are lightly browned, stir in the garlic and sage and keep warm over very low heat.

Make the Pasta: Add the pasta to the boiling salted water and cook until it is al dente. While the pasta is cooking, put the arugula in a large bowl. When the pasta is done, remove 1 cup of pasta cooking water, drain the pasta well, and put the drained pasta on top of the arugula in the bowl. Add the roasted squash and cooked onions to the bowl and toss all the ingredients well. If the dish is too dry, add as much of the pasta cooking water as necessary (usually 1/4 - 1/2 cup). Taste and add freshly ground black pepper or salt, as needed.

Serve sprinkled with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Pasta with Pork in Garlic-Wine Sauce
Serves 4
Spruce vinegar and salt-cured spruce buds add interesting highlights to the sauce, but aren’t necessary to the success of the dish. If you’re among the 99.99% of people who don’t have either ingredient, red wine vinegar and capers work equally well. For capers, I prefer the taste of salt-cured; when I can’t find salt-cured, I use capers in brine. If using artisan-cured pancetta or salt-cured capers, they may be quite salty, so be careful not to over-salt. Bacon may be substituted for pancetta; it adds a pleasant smoky flavor.

Sauce:
1 pork tenderloin (about 1 pound), cut in 3/4” dice
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. black peppercorns, crushed
1 Tbsp. spruce vinegar or red wine vinegar
3 thick slices pancetta, cut in 1/4” dice (1/2 cup)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup finely diced onion, 1/8” dice
1/4 cup sun-dried or regular tomato paste
1 Tbsp. salt-cured spruce buds or capers, well-rinsed and minced
3/4 cup dry red wine
2 cups chicken stock

Pasta:
1/2 pound
gemelli or similarly shaped pasta
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Mix the pork, garlic, peppercorns, and vinegar and let marinate at least 1 hour (overnight is fine).

Sauté the pancetta in olive oil until it begins to brown. Add the pork mixture and cook until the pork is browned on all sides. Stir in the onion, using the moisture in the onions to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Continue cooking until the onions soften and begin to turn golden. Stir in the tomato paste until it is thoroughly combined. Mix in the wine and cook until it is reduced by half. Stir in the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 40 - 45 minutes, until the sauce slightly thickens. Taste and add salt or freshly ground black pepper, as needed.

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until it is al dente. Drain the pasta and toss it with the pork sauce. Serve sprinkled with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

The road we live on

22 comments:

Mediterranean kiwi said...

from now on, i'll never say it's cold in crete - that would be a lie. i checked out marc lester's photos, and i am rather grateful it doesn't snow here.

in crete, we call the fattiest cuts of pork pancetta (they look like a small fatty pork chop, usually without - or with a very little bit of - bone), a sad imitation of the very much more refined original from our neighbours

Peter G said...

I adore pancetta...and I especially love it with pasta. Hope the cold snap has settled.

Joan Nova said...

The view of the path is stunningly beautiful...but, still, if I lived where you do, I'd be inside cooking pasta too. Those are 2 of the more interesting recipes I've seen -- and take that from a pasta-bender/lover/cook/eater of a lifetime.

WorkandTravel Alaska said...

When I was in Alaska , I used to miss Turkish food :)

But now , I miss halibut and salmon

Work and Travel Alaska

Cheryl said...

First-I love the pic of the road that you live on, it's beautiful. I know that you might not want to read this-but I miss seeing that kind of winter!
Next-you're my kind of cook! Pasta and pancetta! Yum, yum, yum! I wanted to make carbonara w/ pancetta simera but everyone voted for fasolakia instead. I was really hankering for some pasta & pork...now that I've seen this post guess what's for dinner tomorrow! :) Glad to have you back!

Bellini Valli said...

I have some thinkly sliced pancetta in the freezer for just such occasions. It won't be as wonderful as the handmade your found but beggars can't be choosers.

Laurie Constantino said...

Maria, cold is all relative. Alaskans like to moan and groan, but our houses are, for the most part, snug and warm and we dress for the weather. It can seem colder in Greece because you're not set up for it. As for nicely grilled Greek panseta, I confess to enjoying it - though I know the fat is bad bad bad.

Peter, as for the weather it's now a zesty 8F (-13C) - a couple more degrees and we'll start thinking it's beach weather.

Joan - hey, that ain't no path, it's an honest to God road!

W&T AK, I understand completely.

Cheryl, yes, missing snowy winters makes sense to me and it is beautiful that's for sure. Pasta and pork - I guess it would be wrong to eat every night, eh??

Val, although I definitely have my preferences, I've never had a bad piece of pancetta. Keeping it in the freezer to be available at a moment's notice is a great plan.

Peter M said...

This the first time seeing the whole pork belly rolled up as a Pancetta.

This gives a whole new meaning to buying in bulk!

Again, when you have good, fresh ingredients...a simple pasta dish is best.

matt wright said...

Salumi is really great. I think I am going to have to take another trip down there! I didn't know you could pick up their stuff at metro. market.

Maria said...

We've gotten a bit of snow here in NY this winter and personally I love it. Yes it's snow, yes it's cold but it is so heartwarming--it makes everything look so beautiful to me.
I love to experience the different seasons throughout the year and don't think I would personally like living somewhere where the weather was the same year round. We went away this weekend on a short trip to the Poconos (Pennsylvania) and it's been snowing there for weeks and had been snowing steadily from Friday all through Sunday while we were there. It was a beautiful, beautiful place. So peaceful, so calming. Just like your photo.
Now onto your dishes--they look amazing. That pancetta looks delectable and both dishes sound fantastic. I would really, really like a heaping plate of either one (maybe even both?!) right now.

Maryann said...

You are so right! A little pancetta goes a long way and makes everything taste better! :)

elly said...

I love pancetta. The pork pasta sounds delicious. I've never thought to mix tenderloin in with my pasta.

Mediterranean Turkish Cook said...

Interesting recipe. The road you live on looks beautiful with the snow. I shouldn't complain about Houston being cold these few days. I know you guys have it much worse.

History of Greek Food said...

When you get a chance, please check out my latest post – I have something there for you.

Mike of Mike's Table said...

Pancetta does make everything better and it sounds like it would really add some great flavor to both of these pasta dishes. Hope you stay warm!

ben said...

Hi everyone. This is a great blog. Do you know of any other Alaska food blogs? I'm interested. Thanks.

Laurie Constantino said...

Peter, it's really only one end of the pancetta - but, you're right, it's a big chunk. But a little bit goes a long ways! I'll probably end up freezing some but, for now, I like admiring it in the refrigerator.

Matt, I like the convenience of buying Salumi products at Metro, but they are more expensive than going downtown to Salumi itself.

Thanks, Maria! As you say, snow is beautiful. You can't live in Alaska and not think so.

Maryann, I'm so thankful for the skill Italians have with pork!

Elly, tenderloin is so quick and easy to use - I like it because it stays moist and tender even though it isn't full of fat.

MedTurkCook, Houston cold? HAHAHA! (I shouldn't laugh - I'd probably complain more about the weather in Houston than here - I'm not a hot weather person.)

Mariana, thank you ever so.

Mike, thanks! I hope you find the perfect place to live...

Ben, thanks for stopping by! There's a few other Alaska foodblogs - email me and I'll send you some links.

Shayne said...

beautiful road. It is hard to believe that Alaska and Michigan look the same right now.

manju said...

Where is the road?! A few snow flurries and I'm pretty much grounded when it comes to driving and weather! Having either of these luscious pastas at the end of the drive might be incentive to brave the weather, though ; )

Anonymous said...

This recipe sounds wonderful, and the snow picture is fabulous. We were in Alaska (Fairbanks, Anchorage and on the train) last March and I've been begging to return ever since. I loved it and didn't want to return to the Nebraska panhandle where there is nothing but wind and almost NO snow althougth they are calling for a 30% chance in the next few days with little accumulation -sigh - I want to get snowed in! Some day I'm moving to Alaska! Right now though I'm off to dig in the freezer to find the pancetta that I know is in there so I can make the pancetta and caper dish - since everything I have is purchased mail order I'm getting good practice for the day I finally convince my husband that we are moving to Alaska!
Robin in the middle no where in rural Nebraska!

Lulu Barbarian said...

I'd forgotten all about spruce tips. This is a good time of year for a reminder; I'll have to go take a closer look at my pine trees.

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