Thursday, January 22, 2009

Pasta with Bacon, Pecorino, Artichoke, and Black Pepper

Calling all food nerds out there. Are you a Giada or a Lidia?

While there's no shortage of celebrity chefs associated with Italian food (not to snub you Mario), I personally tend to think of either Giada DeLaurentiis or Lidia Bastianich. While maybe not as legitimate a chef as Lidia, I have to credit Giada with opening my eyes to Italian food beyond red sauce and pasta (what can I say - I'm a Texas girl...) In fact, it was watching early episodes of Everyday Italian that actually got me into the kitchen in the first place. Her easy breezy, laid back California way of talking you through a recipe (i.e. 'you can do it - it's not that hard') was exactly why I liked her show all those years ago when I was too scared to turn on my Cuisinart, preferring instead for it just to sit on my counter and look pretty. So I have a special place in my heart for her (I even went to her book signing when we lived in Minneapolis. She seemed very sweet, despite the plethora of pervs hovering to get a look at her 'girl's', which she had under safely under wraps in a turtleneck.)

But lately, I lean a little more towards Lidia Bastianich. I swear, that woman could prepare pigs' eyes and find a way to make you drool over them. Her show on PBS picks up where Food Network's glossy but simplified cooking shows leave off (again - I'm not snubbing it - Food Network is entirely responsible for my learning and loving to cook.)

But Lidia can literally conjure up Italy in your living room, talking about the sights and smells and people in a way that makes you want to say damn-it-all and hop a plane there right away. (Instead, I end up going into my kitchen to putter around, but maybe one day I'll book that ticket!)

This dish is based on a black pepper and pecorino pasta she made on Lidia's Italy recently. I changed it up a bit, but the spirit of Lidia was with me all the way, encouraging me to savor every smell, every taste, and texture. (And don't even think of using that gray, dried up pepper powder in the back of your pantry. Fresh cracked makes the dish!)

So as Lidia says: Tutti a Tavola…a Mangiare!

Pasta with Bacon, Pecorino, Artichoke, and Black Pepper

8 oz bite sized pasta such as bow tie or cork screw (I used Colavita Radiators 69 which was great)
2 heaping tablespoons kosher salt for salting your pasta water
2 teaspoons olive oil
4 slices best quality bacon, snipped with kitchen shears into little 1/4 inch pieces (I use Apple Gate 'Sunday' bacon which is nitrate free and is excellent)
8 oz frozen artichoke hearts, preferably thawed a little
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 a cup grated pecorino romano + 1 tablespoon
1 tablespoon shredded Parmesan
couple of ladles of pasta water
1-2 teaspoons fresh cracked black pepper, or to suit your taste

For garnish:
extra pecorino or parmesan
extra fresh cracked pepper
fresh flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped

Heat a large pot of water over high heat, bringing it to a boil, but hold off adding your pasta to it until directed to do so. Meanwhile, start your bacon frying over medium heat in a large, rimmed skillet in the 2 teaspoons olive oil. Fry, stirring frequently for about five minutes, until the bacon has begun to crisp and brown. Add your artichokes to the bacon and as they begin to cook, break them up a little with a wooden spoon. Continue cooking, stirring every so often, for about 10-12 minutes until some of the edges begin to brown just slightly.

At this point, add the salt to your boiling pasta water, stir to bring back to a boil, and add your pasta. Going back to your artichokes and bacon, add the 1/4 cup of white wine and scrape up all of the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Continue cooking over a low simmer until the majority of the wine has evaporated - about 7 minutes or the time it takes your pasta to cook to al dente.

Using a spider or slotted spoon, strain the pasta and add it to your bacon and artichokes. Stir in your cheeses, along with a ladle or two from your pasta water to help create a sauce and help the cheese to melt in. Stir in your fresh cracked black pepper (as much as you want - its earthy weightiness is lovely against the sharp tang from the Pecorino) and taste for salt (I didn't need any but this is a personal thing.)

Serve with a choice of garnishes, or all three.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


You cannot make artichoke pasta without lemon.

Cannot be done.

Lydia notwithstanding.

Ask Mario