Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Goat Cheese and Pancetta Orecchiette

I hope everyone had a lovely Halloween!  I drove up to Columbia to see my Grady-bear.  He was Darth Grady, Sith Lord.  Yeah, not a pumpkin or a sweet pea or any other vegetable.  Villain from Star Wars.  Totes appropriate.  In any event, I made chili per our Halloween tradition.  Nom.

We had a few trick or treaters and started watching a couple of horror movies.  Like TrollHunter.  Oh yeah.  A Blair Witch-style movie, Norwegian of course, about these college kids finding out trolls are real.  Did you know trolls turn to stone?  Well some explode, but I don't remember specifically a story where trolls turn to stone.  Did you know the Norwegian word for troll is troll?  According to Wikipedia the Scandinavians have trolls on lock.  So there you go, all you wanted to ever hear about trolls.

This pasta is the antithesis of a trolls.  It's creamy, comforting, and incapable of becoming a statue.  It's got goat cheese, pancetta, Parmigiano, and tomatoes that come together in a risotto-style pasta to make your life complete.  Complete, people.

Get it started.
You need: whole peeled tomatoes, chicken broth, the small pasta of your choice, olive oil, bay leaves, onion, creamy goat cheese, butter, dried thyme, garlic, sage*, and pancetta*.
*I used sage because it was in my fridge.  If you've got another herb like rosemary or thyme, feel free to use it.  You can also use bacon instead of pancetta if that's what you have hanging around.
It helps if you have massive cloves of garlic.  This is a clove next to two tablespoons of butter for a little perspective.  I could've just used the one but why?
Give the onions a medium dice, mince the garlic, and seed the 'maters.  The reason I went with whole peeled tomatoes was precisely because I didn't want to peel them myself.  It's easy to seed them like this.  All you do is give 'em a little squeeze and the seeds should shoot right out.  You don't need the big can unless you want to use the extras to make a simple tomato sauce or bruschetta perhaps.
Heat the olive oil, tomatoes, sage, half the garlic, and bay leaves in a small saucepan.  Let it come to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes.
In the meantime you can cook the pancetta to crispy, crunchy delight.
Use a slotted spoon to remove the tomatoes from the oil and chop them up.  As you can see, a few pieces of garlic might make it into the mix.  It's fine.  You won't need the oil again for this recipe, but I think you could brush it on some crusty bread to make some bangin' bruschetta.  If you have leftover tomatoes?  Even better.
Melt the butter over medium heat in a large pan.  Add the onions and cook them until they're soft and translucent.
Add your pasta toss it around in the onions and butter.  It should take on a slightly golden color.
Toss in the other half of the garlic and cook a few minutes.
Chicken broth time!  Add half a cup and sprinkle a little thyme over it.  Stir the pasta until the broth is nearly absorbed.  Keep adding it half a cup at a time.
While your pasta is doing its thing, grate up some cheese.
Eventually it's going to look like this.  You want it al dente and to have this starchy, slightly thick sauce.
Add the chopped tomatoes and stir them around.  Let them cook a minute or two.
Now we need some goat cheese.  You want the creamy kind, not the crumbly.  You also want to take the pan off the heat at this point.  The goat cheese should melt right in.
As if the goat cheese doesn't already make this creamy and decadent, we're going to need more cheese.  Toss in the cheese and grate a little more to sprinkle on top for serving.
Crack some black pepper over it for a little...well pepper kick.  You can adjust the salt at this point too.  It shouldn't need much with the chicken broth and cheese.
Give yourself a nice portion with a little pancetta, Parmigiano, and some green onions on top.  I love the salty bite the pancetta gives combined with the creamy tang of the goat cheese.  It's...magical.  This recipe takes a bit of prep work, but it's so worth it.

Goat Cheese and Pancetta Orecchiette with Tomato Confit (serves 4)
Adapted from Food & Wine

1 small can whole peeled tomatoes, seeded
1 c extra virgin olive oil
4-5 sage leaves
1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 oz. pancetta, cooked crispy
2 tbs unsalted butter
1/2 medium onion, medium dice
1/2 lb orechiette (other small-cut pasta will work- ditalini, small shells, etc)
3 1/2 c low-sodium chicken broth
Sprinkle of dried thyme leaves (about 1/4 tsp)
4 oz. creamy goat cheese
1/2 c grated Parmigiano Reggiano, plus more for serving
Fresh ground pepper and salt to taste
Chopped green onions for serving, optional

  • Heat a small saucepan with the olive oil, tomatoes, sage leaves, bay leaf, and half the garlic over medium heat.  Let it simmer 10-15 minutes.  Use a slotted spoon to remove the tomatoes to a cutting board.  Chop the tomatoes and reserve them.  
  • Melt the butter in a large pan over medium heat.  Add the onion to the pan and cook until soft and translucent.  Add the pasta and cook until golden in color, about 2 minutes.  Add the rest of the garlic and cook another minute.
  • Add 1/2 c of the chicken broth to the pasta, stirring until nearly absorbed.  Add the thyme and continue adding the broth 1/2 c at a time.  The pasta will be done when it is al dente and in a starchy, creamy-looking sauce.
  • Add the tomatoes and let it stand on the heat 1 minute.  Take the pan off the heat and add the goat cheese and Parmigiano.  When the cheese is melted, season with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately and garnish with extra Parmigiano, pancetta, and green onions.

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