It’s been way TOOOOO long since my last post, but two weeks with a stomach flu and three weeks out on the road for work will do that to you. Back home now and summer veggies are available, which means I’ll be making more meals at home!! This dish is something I started making a couple years ago and just really love the crisp pancetta with the sweet little tomatoes and the freshness of lemon zest all mixed in with some pasta. It’s easy to make, approx. 5 to 10 minutes in prep and about 15 minutes cooking & is enough food for 3 to 4 people!
1/2 box of Cavatappi Pasta (or whatever your favorite pasta is)
1 & 1/2 Tablespoons of Kosher Salt
1/4 lb. Pancetta, Cubed or Chunked
10 Baby Portabella Caps, Diced
10 Grape Tomatoes, Halved
1/2 Tablespoon of Black Pepper
1 Lemon- 1/2 for Zest & Whole for Juice
1/2 Tablespoon of Crushed Red Pepper (add less for less heat)
2-4 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
4 Leaves of Fresh Basil, Julienned
Pecorino Romano Cheese, Grated (as much as desired)
Step 1- Get the Prep Work Out of the Way
Get your water boiling on the stove for the pasta. If your meat didn’t come cubed or chunked, cube the 1/4 lb. of pancetta. Start warming up your medium sized skillet on medium high heat to get it toasty to crisp up the pancetta. Dice up your mushroom caps and halve the grape tomatoes (bigger than a cherry tomato but smaller than a plum tomato). I even like to dust my tomatoes with salt & pepper at this point (1/4 Tablespoon of each) to get some of the water out of them and make sure they’re seasoned correctly before appearing on a plate. Cut your lemon in half to easily juice the whole thing by squeezing them directly into the pasta & zest one half of the lemon. I like to fresh grate the cheese over top of the cooked pasta right before serving…
Step 2: Cooking the Pasta & Crisping the Meat
Add your pasta (I like to use fun pastas to make it easier to get a little bit of everything into every bite, but feel free to choose any pasta that you like) to the boiling water and your cubed pancetta to the hot pan. Salt your pasta water, 1 Tablespoon, now & let them cook.
Step 3: Add Mushrooms, Lemon Zest and Crushed Red Pepper
As the pancetta starts to brown and crisp be sure to do your best to then brown the other side of them. Once one side is browned add your diced mushrooms and allow them to brown as well. Once the mushrooms have started to brown, add the zest of the 1/2 of a lemon and 1/2 tablespoon of crushed red pepper (unless you desire less) and mix together in the skillet…
Step 4: Drain the Cooked Pasta and Drizzle with Olive Oil
While your other ingredients are browning, go ahead and remove the pasta from the heat once it hits al dente (usually, at about 3-4 minutes when pasta is fresh and 8-10 when not). Next, drain the pasta water from the cooked pasta. Once off heat and drained, drizzle your pasta with olive oil (approx. 2 Tablespoons), this should prevent the pasta from sticking to each other while you finish up the second part of the dish.
Step 5: Add the Tomatoes and Pasta to the Crispy Pancetta & Mushroom Mix
Once the pancetta has reached crispness (not burntness) go ahead and add the seasoned tomato halves to the skillet and stir. After a minute or so of stirring go ahead and add the cooked pasta to the skillet. Add remaining salt, pepper and olive oil to taste. Toss it (or mix it, if you prefer) all together!
Step 6: Plate It and Dress It Up!
Once all the ingredients have been equally distributed throughout the dish, go ahead and plate them. I like to then dust the dish with some of the fresh basil and finally top it all off with some freshly grated pecorino cheese (as much as desired). Now it’s ready to serve & EAT!