May 30, 2009
Lately, in the warmer weather, I've been enjoying pasta toppings that aren't swamped by a thick sauce. Pancetta in the form I've used it for this dish - very thinly shaved - will be sweet and surprising, but easily overpowered if the sauce were any thicker. The onions and tomatoes are sweet too, and through it all comes the strong flavour of rosemary. Use plenty of rosemary, some whole leaves and some snipped. It'll taste like summer.
Penne with Pancetta & Rosemary
3oz / 85g very thinly sliced pancetta (about 15 slices)
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, diced
a good handful of fresh rosemary leaves
1 tsp dried red pepper / chilli flakes (or more, or less, to taste)
1 tin peeled whole Italian plum tomatoes*
salt & freshly ground black pepper
penne or other pasta, enough for 2 (main course) or 4 (first course)
Put a frying pan over medium high heat and add pancetta. You can cut the pancetta into smaller pieces with a knife or kitchen scissors; I pull it apart roughly with my hands, so the pieces are still quite large. Cook for approximately 10 minutes, until it's started to curl but isn't yet crispy, then remove from the pan and drain on paper towel.
There should be just enough fat in the frying pan to cook the onions; if there isn't, add a splash of olive oil. Reduce the heat to medium, add the diced onion, and cook until soft, about 15 minutes. Add the rosemary, red pepper (chilli) flakes and garlic, and cook for a further 3-5 minutes, making sure the garlic doesn't colour and stick.
Drain the tomatoes of their canned juice, retaining the juice. Slice off the core of each tomato and squeeze out the seeds (don't keep the seeds). Roughly chop.
Turn the heat under the frying pan up to medium high, and add the tomatoes, the pancetta (I crumble it a little more, and remove some of the fat), and half the juice from the tomato can. Season with a little salt and pepper. Cook, simmering, for about 20 minutes, or until there is very little visible juice.
Meanwhile, cook the penne in plenty of salted, rapidly boiling water until al dente. Drain, then add to the frying pan. Stir through the sauce and cook for a minute or so. Serve immediately with plenty of grated parmesan.
* Later in the summer, when the tomatoes are at their peak, I'll make this with fresh tomatoes, peeled and seeded.