Thursday, September 10, 2009

Pasta with Pancetta, Sauteed Zuchinni, and Tomatoes

I know. I'm feeding you pasta twice in one week. But that's how the cookie crumbled so you will eat your pasta and like it! Actually, that might not be true. If you don't like zuchinni - you obviously won't like this pasta. But when I went to the stables last weekend, the farm stand next door was warning me it was the last time to get summer's organic wonders - namely corn and peaches - but it was zuchinni that caught my eye.

I was tempted to create a cream sauce for the pasta, but it's fashion week here in New York and the explosion of lanky 17 year old Brazilian models curbed that aspiration. So here's what I made instead. Apologies for the roughage dominating the picture - I like a lot of fresh herbs on this and didn't realize it would photograph like a home lawn (though I'll tell you - between the zuchinni and fresh basil - who needs a salad?)

TIP: Pancetta is best purchased in whole 'chunks' versus pre-diced. (If you're short on time - ignore what I just said.) So when you find it, buy it, cut off and dice what you need, and keep the rest in the freezer. Pancetta, like bacon, is actually easier to cut when frozen and docile, versus room temp and resistant.

Pasta with Pancetta, Sauteed Zuchinni, and Tomatoes
Serves 3.

1/2 pound of short tube pasta, little ears, or bow ties
heaping 1/2 cup of diced pancetta
2 medium zuchinni, ends removed and diced
pinch of salt
good crack of black pepper
1 (14 oz) can diced or whole tomatoes, drained and lightly broken up, if whole
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon olive oil

handful of fresh, torn basil leaves (can also sub oregano)

Get a large pot of water started boiling over high heat. Once it's boiling, add a handful of kosher salt and let come back to a boil. (If you are still cooking your pancetta - let the water wait at a boil. If not - go ahead and add the pasta.) Cook for 8 minutes or per directions until al dente.

Meanwhile, heat a large rimmed skillet over medium heat. Add 1 teaspoon olive oil letting heat through 1 minute, then add the diced pancetta. Cook, stirring every so often for about 8 minutes, until the fat has rendered (shrunken and the remains have become glassy and golden) and cooked through. Don't let it get too dark brown or it will be like pork rinds in the pasta versus delightful meaty nuggets. Remove with a slotted spoon or spider to a holding plate. Drain off any excess fat from the pan, leaving just a thin layer. Add a splash of fresh extra virgin olive oil to the pan, return to medium heat, and add the zuchinni along with a good pinch of kosher or sea salt and black pepper. Cook stirring every few minutes until nice and sauteed, beginning to turn golden on the edges - about 12 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook for another 2 minutes.

Add the drained pasta to the zuchinni/tomato mixture along with the cheese and final teaspoon of olive oil, gently stirring to incorporate altogether. Add a final bit of black pepper, if desired along, with freshly torn basil leaves. Serve with extra parmesan grated over each bowlful.

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