My favorite short pasta shape is orecchiette, which means "little ears". They are like little pasta cups that are perfect for holding the sauce - in this case, little bits of crispy pancetta along with cheese and mushrooms. What a perfect combination and great comfort food for the chilly months ahead.
Pancetta is simply Italian bacon that is not smoked. It is cured with various aromatics and sometimes peppercorns and has a wonderful taste. It is sold either in solid chunks, sliced paper thin or in little cubes. My favorite way to buy it is in little cubes, so I don't have to dice it all up.
ceramic plate from Fifty One and a Half
Orecchiette Pasta with Mushrooms and Pancetta
for a printable recipe, click here
- 5 ounces pancetta, diced (you can sub bacon if you need to)
- 8 ounces Orecchiette pasta
- 8 ounces mushrooms, thinly sliced
- ½ cup medium red onion, diced (about ½ medium onion)
- pinch of red hot chili pepper (optional)
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, minced
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ¾ cup grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
- sea salt to taste
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
Put a large pot of water to boil on the stove for the pasta (I do not salt the water in this instance since the pancetta adds saltiness to the dish). Heat a large saute skillet over medium low heat. Spray with a little cooking spray and add the pancetta. Fry pancetta until crisp, about 8 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon onto paper towels to drain. Pour off any oil but do not wipe out pan.
Add pasta to boiling water and stir. Time the pasta to cook for about 12 minutes (different brands will cook for different times).
While pasta is cooking, add one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil to the skillet in which you fried the pancetta. Add the onions, mushrooms, chili pepper and black pepper. Add about ¼ cup of water to the pan. Toss everything together well. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mushrooms should be golden and greatly reduced in volume and most of the liquid should be evaporated. Lower heat. Add the thyme and cook over low heat for one more minute. Return pancetta to pan, along with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Stir mixture. Test pasta to make sure it is done (it should be al dente - don't overcook it) and remove from pot with a strainer and add to the sauce, letting a little pasta water transfer over with the pasta. Turn off heat and add cheese. Mix well. If the pasta is too dry, just add a little more hot pasta water.
Taste pasta and if it needs a little salt, add it at this point. Add the fresh parsley and mix well. Add more grated cheese, if you like.