Lend me your “ears”
With fall-like temperatures sneaking in lately, my mind is already gearing up for comfort grub. Pastas, of course, are ideal ways to accommodate complex and hearty flavors without getting too “heavy.”
Here’s what I believe is a seldom-used pasta among food enthusiasts: orrechiette, the indented-disc shape of which resembles a small ear. In fact, the word has its root in the Italian “orecchio,” meaning ear, and “etto” meaning small. Pancetta is the Italian, salt-cured version of bacon. You may not readily notice this savory selection at your local market, but go to the deli counter and ask. In other words, if it’s not up front under glass, sometimes they have it in the back.
I like adding peas for their sweetness and color, but one of the unique features of orecchiette is its ability to cup or cradle vegetables and sauces. It would be easy to go overboard under that guidance, but keep things simple—a few meticulously handled ingredients with a user-friendly execution. This dish makes for a great, midweek snack, or a gray-day comfort food. So, friends, readers, culinarians, please allow me to lend you these ears.
Clint Smith is an honors graduate of The Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago, Le Cordon Bleu, and is currently a culinary arts instructor at Central Nine Career Center. To read more about techniques and recipes, visit cookingwithclint.com.
Orecchiette with pan-fried pancetta
• 1 ½ cup dry orecchiette pasta
• ½ cup chopped pancetta
• 1 cup chopped baby bella mushrooms
• ¾ cup frozen peas
• ¼ cup sherry wine
• ½ tablespoon unsalted butter
• 4 – 5 grape tomatoes, halved
• As needed, kosher salt and cracked black pepper
• As needed, grated parmesan (for garnishing)
1. Being a medium stockpot of salted water to a boil; add orecchiette pasta, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.
2. Meanwhile, in a sauté pan over medium-high heat, add pancetta and sauté until crispy; add mushrooms and sauté until slightly tender; add peas. Once peas have warmed, add wine and allow to reduce.
3. Strain orecchiette and add to sauté pan. Add in butter and stir to incorporate. Add tomatoes, adjust seasoning, toss with parmesan and serve.
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