Monday, August 30, 2010

Little Ears with Pancetta

In the Italian language, orecchio means ear, and the suffix "etto" means little, hence the nickname, little ears. Orecchiette is shaped like a small cup or disc. It is great for holding thick sauces and ragus. But I utilized this little ear-shaped pasta to host some of my produce I grew from my garden.

I love the simplicity of a Caprese salad which is fresh tomato, mozzarella, and basil touched with olive oil and seasoning. For a salad with only three ingredients, it packs a lot of flavor, the fresher, the better. I've been harvesting basil and tomato from my garden the last few weeks. Those ingredients combined with pasta are truly one of my favorite dishes. Simple, quick, super tasty. So this is my take on Caprese salad. To add more punch to the dish, I added my own home-cured pancetta.

The orecchiette only takes about 10-11 minutes to cook. While boiling the pasta, get a pan nice and hot, add a little drop of olive oil and add the chopped pancetta. I sliced the pancetta into a similar size to the cut-in-half cherry tomatoes. I added the tomatoes to the pan to cook for about a minute in the oil and pancetta fat. The basil was roughly ripped into pieces.

This is my tongue-in-cheek attempt to plate like the chefs on Top Chef or any other competition cooking show. The tiny mozzarella ball sits nicely atop the fried pancetta. I suppose it would make a great amuse bouche for a party.

Orecchiette with pancetta, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella balls, and basil.

I must say, this dish was amazing. The cherry tomato burst in my mouth, sweet and a little bitter, but it is that good bitter taste. But when I had a spoonful of tomato with the pancetta, that is when it blew me away. Salty, fatty goodness combined with bursting garden fresh tomato, holy shit! (Sorry for the cuss but it perfectly explains my reaction.)

The fresh basil was a highlight on its own. Picking basil from the garden and cupping them in my hands and taking in a huge whiff of it is why I started a garden in the first place. I love the smell of fresh basil, tastes even better. It is a perfect match with tomato, olive oil, salt, pepper, etc....

The orecchiette was the right pasta to use, the mozzarella, pancetta, and tomatoes sat inside the little cup perfectly. I must say that the only real letdown was the mozzarella balls. I think the smaller the ball, the more void of taste. It looks pretty in a small tight ball but next time I will just get a big chunk of cheese and cut into little pieces.

I know it is only 5 main ingredients but damn, they all work amazing together and for the amount of time needed to make this dish, few are better and more tasty.

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