I stumbled upon Serious Eats a few months ago, and one of the first posts/columnists that sold me on the site was Gina DePalma (pastry chef extraordinaire at Babbo) and her recurring column on great Italian cooking every Thursday. Since my favorite series are in reruns, her column is seriously the highlight of my Thursdays, because she always provides something thought-provoking, and nine times out of ten a recipe I want to replicate that weekend.
She had enjoyed this particular dish at a restaurant in Florence, was shown how to prepare it by the house chef after raving about its deliciousness, and then shared it to all of us…and made it utterly scintillating. I could not stop thinking about this meal for a week, and finally begged Michael to try it out. While the results were delicious, they were not quite what I wanted, so I tweaked the recipe a bit to add some saltiness, some fattiness, but remove the butter as I’m not a fan of butter on my noodles–but that’s a personal preference. We went at it again this past Sunday, and substituting pancetta for the butter, and I think we achieved what we were looking for: a rich, decadent pasta that is still gloriously simple in preparation.
Our adaptation from Chef DePalma’s recipe:
- 2 quarts of decent red wine (my box of Banrock Station Cabarnet was a good pick, as it runs for less than $20 for three litres, so you’ll get some wine afterwards)
- 2 quarts water
- 1 box spaghetti (a pound)
- 1/4 lb pancetta, cubed
- 3 cloves of garlic, sliced
- 1 TB olive oil
- 1 cup of red wine
- Salt and pepper to taste
Combine wine and water into stock pot, and generously season the mixture with kosher salt and bring to a boil. Add the pasta, and cook until the pasta is slightly less than al dente, following package directions. Instead of draining the pasta, keep the wine/water mixture in the event you need it for the sauce, but you can take it off the burner.
Before the pasta is done, add the olive oil, pancetta and garlic to a saute pan on medium low heat. The idea here is to render the fat out of the pancetta and to cook the garlic to a slight golden brown. You will then want to add the pasta back into the pan with the cup of red wine, and cook until most of the liquid has ben asbsorbed (but keep in mind, the point here is to get a taste of the “raw” wine) and add salt and pepper to the total mix. Toss again, then serve.