Saturday, April 17, 2010

Urban Cowboy Pasta with Pancetta, Tomatoes and Cheddar Cheese

Did you know you could put cheddar cheese in pasta? It's really not that crazy when you think about it. A good sharp aged cheddar, which is what you want here, isn't that different in texture from Parmesan or Asiago. A ladle full of pasta water to help everything make friends and you're good to go. I particularly love the cheeseburger-iness of the flavors here. Salty sweet prosciutto, tender tomatoes, and a punch from the sharp cheddar and green onions added at the very end. It's worth noting that even though you fry up the pancetta to start with, it will lose its crispy texture after you introduce the tomatoes and splash of pasta water. If you'd like to keep it crunchy, remove it with a slotted spoon and add it back in at the very end.

Finally there's no real reason I called this Urban Cowboy pasta other than a somewhat tenuous link to it being both fancy (pancetta) and down to earth (cheddar cheese.) Honestly I just use any excuse I can find to plug the movie, an old favorite. I mean any film that can work in this description of cowboys - 'some of us got smarts real good' should be watched again and again.

Urban Cowboy Pasta with Pancetta, Tomatoes and Cheddar Cheese
Serves 4 cowboys or six ladies.

1 box (1 lb) spiral or tube shaped pasta
Dash of olive oil
4 oz diced/cubed pancetta (you can sub bacon)
1 (28 oz can) whole peeled tomatoes, drained
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Pinch sea salt
Dash garlic powder
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Pinch fresh grated nutmeg
Pinch of fresh cracked pepper
2 1/2 cups extra sharp grated cheddar (white or yellow - I like to grate a block of 2% Cracker Barrel Sharp Yellow), plus extra for garnish
Ladle full of pasta water
1/2 cup chopped green onions, plus extra for garnish

Put a large pot of water over high heat to boil for your pasta. Once boiling, season with a handful of kosher or sea salt, and add your pasta cooking about 6-7 minutes or just until al dente.

Meanwhile, add a dash of olive oil to a large nonstick skillet and bring over medium heat. Add in the pancetta cubes and cook, stirring every other minute or so, until nice and crispy (about 5-6 minutes.)
Add in the drained tomatoes and season with a half teaspoon sugar, a small pinch of sea or kosher salt, dash of garlic powder, and red pepper flakes, breaking the tomatoes up gently with a wooden spoon. Bring the tomatoes mixture to a boil and let go for about 3 minutes, stirring once. Reduce the heat to low and season with a good grating of fresh nutmeg and fresh cracked pepper. Stir to incorporate. Add in the pasta using a spider or slotted spoon along with the 2 1/2 cups of cheddar. Stir to incorporate, then add in a ladle full of pasta water to help everything meld and stir again. Just before serving, stir in the chopped green onions.

Serve warm, garnishing with extra grated cheddar and green onions.

1 comment:

Jenn said...

mmmmmm...cheddar cheese and pasta...what else needs to be said! I love that not only are we the marinade girls, and the sauce girls, but the pasta girls too! This looks incredible!