Showing posts with label pancetta and zucchini pasta. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pancetta and zucchini pasta. Show all posts

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Cheap and cheerful: Carmelized onion, pancetta and zucchini pasta

From Victoria Abbott/Mary Jane Maffini

The other night, we had a very disappointing experience with a recipe from a well-known (no names) chef. Yuck. We could not eat it! MJ was convinced that it was the process, not the ingredients. Today is a grey and snowy winter day and of course, post holidays we’re inclined toward cheap and cheerful.  We decided to experiment with what we had in the fridge and cupboard to see if we could do better.  


We could indeed.
Here's what we came up with using what we had in the house.

Here's all we needed:
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
1/3 lb pancetta (Pancetta is a type of Italian bacon, so cured, but not cooked) cubed. I used the President’s Choice, already cubed (ha!).  You can substitute bacon if that suits.
2 small zucchini sliced (or whatever you have – I think peppers would be nice)
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
Enough of your favorite pasta for two (we used tri-color rotini because we had a lot of it).
Good extra virgin olive oil (enough to cover your frying or sauté pan). Our best pan is 13 inches, but smaller is fine.
All you need to do is:

Heat oil, sauté the onions for about ten minutes, until they soften. You can use the time to slice the zucchini, which if you’re like me you have forgotten to do. Or you can take pictures of your favorite oven mitts for fun to kill time.  

Slowly carmelizing onions while you do something else is one of the great cooking secrets. The taste changes amazingly and really, it’s so easy. 

When onions are translucent, add pancetta and sliced zucchini. Cook on low to medium heat. Adjust so they cook slowly, but just enough to brown the zukes.

Keep cooking until pasta is ready, which reminds me: Meanwhile cook your favorite pasta until al dente or more cooked if you prefer.  Ten – twelve minutes. Your choice.
Drain pasta. Add to pan if it’s big enough to hold the pasta.  We like the bigger pan because we can do that. Otherwise add onions, pancetta and zucchini (and pan juices) to the pasta.   Top with grated Parmesan cheese (if you’re cheap and cheerful) or with fresh Parmegiano-Reggiano if you’re feeling fancier or more authentic.  Of course, you can use whatever cheese you have, which is what we often do.
Serve from pan or platter. Do not do as MJ did and pop a vintage platter (a one dollar garage sale find) into the microwave without noticing that there was still faded gold trim on the edges. Yikes!  Microwave is still working, but the phrase ‘too soon old too late’ smart comes to mind.

Serve.  You can add pepper,  but  you may not need salt because the pancetta is salty.  Test first.

Truth in advertising: the rotini tasted great, but wasn't that photogenic. So we tried it another time with fettuccine.  Perhaps no beauty either, but it delivered the taste.

We were very happy with this result and thought it was good enough for company. Pasta and veggies are great for keeping up energy and we need it as we come down the home stretch on the second in the book collector mystery series, The Sayers Swindle.

What about you? What's your favorite cheap and cheerful meal? 

Victoria Abbott is Mary Jane Maffini and Victoria Maffini (seen above trying not to look too wicked. Maybe that needs work).  
Their first collaborative effort The Christie Curse: a book collector mystery comes out March 5, 2013
Visit them at www.victoria-abbott-com

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