Thursday, May 5, 2011

Mad Pasta Experiments

The bad news of the day is I have started to moderate comments here.  I was never keen on having to do the extra work to approve comments.  I figured as long as I used a captcha code to avoid comments that weren't from real human beings, I could just delete any comment I didn't like.  That rarely ever happens (one advantage to a low-traffic blog is that you don't get much negative feedback or hate mail), so I never worried too much.  I have been receiving some rather cleverly disguised spam lately, so I have decided to do something to discourage it. 

Anyway, let's get on with today's recipe.

Ever see a recipe where you see a bunch of your favorite ingredients, a recipe that you're sure could be pretty good - except for one ingredient - and that ingredients is the major star player?

You probably haven't, Dear Reader, but me being as weird as I am, tend to run across this issue fairly frequently.

The recipe I'm talking about now is Pasta con Sarde.  It's a pasta dish that contains many ingredients I love: fresh fennel, pine nuts, wine and onions.  Raisins are added for sweetness, but since I have that weird quirk about raisins in savory food, I don't mind.  The only problem is the fact that the starring ingredient is SARDINES.  Ick poo!

I thought about a nice pasta recipe that would incorporate all of those great spring-like flavors and still have a nice richness about it.  Sardines are oily and salty.  What could I use to replace that?

Pancetta anyone?  Oily and salty coming right up.

It's spring, so what could be more appropriate than a bulb of fennel and some ramps.  I also had some fresh mint lying about.

I sauteed the fennel, mint, and ramps after browning off the pancetta.  Sir Pickypants doesn't love fennel because it's hard and tough. I sliced it very thinly on the mandoline so it softened up nicely.

Into the sauce went some wine and chicken stock.  The gluten-free pasta was tossed into the pan with toasted  pine nuts and golden raisins.   I also tossed in some of the fennel fronds.  The whole thing was topped with pecorino and the pancetta chunks.  I really wanted to use spaghetti, but the store was out of gluten-free spaghetti.

This was a really awesome pasta if I do say so myself . It was a bit sharp, a bit sweet, a bit crunchy and a bit chewy.  I will definitely make this again and recommend you try it.

It was also very easy to make.  I came home from work, sliced up the fennel, ramps and mint, gathered the rest of the ingredients, and then went to Zumba class.  After Zumba class I put the water on to boil, browned the pancetta, toasted the pine nuts while the pancetta browned, and then was able to quickly cook up the veggies and throw it all together.

I had a hard time naming this pasta.  As I see it, the recipe is just another one of my mad flavor experiments that I have been so fond of lately.  It has some spring-like ingredients. 

Springtime Pasta of the (dis)Ordered Mind

1 pound pasta of your choice
1/2" thick slice of pancetta, cut into small chunks
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced on a mandoline, fronds reserved and chopped
6-8 ramps, cut in thin strips
1 Tbl chopped fresh mint
1 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
Copious amounts of pecorino

In a large saute pan cook pancetta chunks until fat has rendered and it is brown and crispy.  Remove from pan and set aside.  Drain off excess fat.

Add the fennel, mint, and ramps to the pan.  Cook until fennel becomes soft.

Pour in the wine and broth.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer until reduced by half.

Cook pasta according to package directions.  When cooked, toss the pasta in the pan with the vegetables.  Then toss in the raisins, fennel fronds and pine nuts.  If you are not married to Sir Pickypants, toss in the pancetta chunks and some of the cheese as well.  If you are married to Sir Pickypants, only put the pancetta and cheese on your own plate.


Jeff Hickmott said...

Hey, that does sound good. I need to look up ramps to see what we Brits call 'em. To me a ramp is something you use for wheelchair access. But this is nice. I may even try doing a veggie version - perhaps the oily and salty could be marinated mushrooms? Or artichoke hearts... mmmm.

bellini said...

Experimenting with food brings out the kid in all of us!!!

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Jeff, they are sometimes called wild leeks or baby leeks if that helps.

Proud Italian Cook said...

I don't like sardines either, ( or anchovies for that matter) Ick! You got me wanting to go out and get some ramps, the name might be weird but they sure are good, especially with pasta!

Emily said...

This pasta is perfect for spring. It sounds great! So you did up adding the raisins?

I tried zumba only once. Do you like it?

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Emily - Ha ha. Yes, I did add the rasisin. For some reason even though I hate raisins out of hand or in my desserts, I don't mind them in savory foods where the sweetness works in contrast to salty/spicy flavors.

I like Zumba, although the teacher I am currently taking classes with doesn't vary his routines/music much and it's getting a little boring. It's still more fun than the treadmill thogh.

PIC - Yay for the non sardine/anchovy people! I wanted to try ramps for years and attempted to forage and never found them. Eventually Whole Foods started carrying them.

The Blonde Duck said...

I'm not a pasta person but that looks great!

I've had the same trouble with the dance studios here...

Sue said...

You held out for a long time, so don't sweat the comment moderation. But then why still have the word verification thingie? (Just asking.)

Maybe I shouldn't tell you that my father loves sardines on toast WITH STRAWBERRY JAM. I'm not kidding...and it's not half bad.

Love the pancetta. Actually, I love everything in this recipe. Good job.

The Blonde Duck said...

I'm sorry you got spammed. I've always wanted to try pancetta.