Thursday, March 5, 2009

Salty, Peppery, Porky Goodness

Sometimes I plan dinner, sometimes it's a clean-out-the-fridge meal. Tonight is the latter. It makes me think of when I was a chef and I'd go into the kitchen's walk-in refrigerator, look around at what was there, and plan the day's special. Sometimes you just have to work with what's on hand.

This pasta is one of those I've never made before (but made many similar), and may never make again, unless I have this exact mix of ingredients. Of course, you can substitute, leave out, or add anything you like. If you leave out the Pancetta, you may need a little extra salt. You can replace with another protein, like chicken breast, or make it vegetarian and leave it out all together. But honestly, I love the salty, peppery, porkiness of Pancetta.

I added the mozzarella because I had a little left in the container and wanted to use it up. You can replace it with another cheese, or leave it out. I added the tomatoes because they were starting to look a little wrinkled in the 'fridge (don't say "ewwww" you know it happens to you too). If you don't have pesto, you could use olive oil and fresh basil, or even a tomato sauce. I added the eggplant because I love eggplant and buy one almost every time I go to the store. Mushrooms and onions are staples and I almost always have them.

Penne Pasta with Pancetta, Eggplant, Peppers & Pesto
5 oz package of diced Pancetta
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced thin
1/2 half eggplant, 1" diced
1/2 onion, sliced thin
1 cup sliced mushrooms
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 Tbsp Olive oil
1/2 cup whole small cherry tomatoes
3 oz fresh mini mozzarella balls
2 oz home made pesto (recipe at a later date)
1 lb penne pasta

Start a pot of water for the pasta and when it boils, cook the pasta while cooking the sauce in another pan. When the pasta is done, drain and set aside.

The obligatory glass of wine while cooking pasta.

In a large saute pan or wok, cook the pancetta until crisp and remove from the pan. Reserve the rendered fat in the pan and add in the peppers, onions, and mushrooms (you can discard the fat and cook in olive oil, but the pancetta fat is so much tastier). Cook the vegetables until they are soft and remove onto a plate.

Add 1 Tbsp to the pan and add the eggplant. Cook until browned and add the garlic, cook 1 min.

Add the other cooked vegetables back to the pan and mix. Add the whole cherry tomatoes and toss to combine. Add in the pesto and fresh mozzarella. Mix in the pasta.

This isn't a beautiful dish, but damm, it tastes great!

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