FÊTE & FORAGE

beautiuful LIVINg, bountiful FOOD

Think Spring on this cold, winter day here in Michigan. The vibrant green color of the basil pesto cream sauce is the promise of Spring and gets us through the long winter days in these parts. I wanted to make a dish full of vibrant color today.

The first time I tried basil pesto, I was 19 and living in Paris. Some friends bought a jar and we simply mixed it in with plain pasta and sat in our pajamas and ate it on the floor. I thought it was the most delicious thing I’d ever tried. I’d also tried “lardons,” for the first time, which are basically pancetta strips and thought I’d gone to heaven with those too. Not until years later did I think (or learn) to mix everything together with cream and a few other gems of goodness. I made this meal for my family a few weeks ago and we affectionately named it “BLT” pasta. It has the “B” (pancetta is as close as it gets to bacon), spinach for the “L”, and blistered oven-roasted tomatoes. Made in bulk and the pasta reheats well over the oven and keeps us happy for a couple of days.

One important part of making this dish is using fresh parmesan. This is the case whenever parmesan is used in a cream sauce. Powdered or canned parmesan always contains cellulose to prevent caking. The cellulose prevents the cheese from melting and instead creates a clumpy sauce. Be sure to buy the block of parmesan and grate it by hand or invest in a hand crank cheese grater. It’s also cheaper than buying the canned cheese.

Pesto Pancetta Florentine Pasta

Yields 8 Servings | Prep Time 1:00 | Total Cook Time 1:00

INGREDIENTS 

  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced OR 2 tsp. jarred minced garlic
  • 8 oz. pancetta
  • 1 lb. angel hair pasta
  • 32 oz. cream
  • 4 oz. fresh parmesan
  • 6 oz. jarred basil pesto
  • 16 oz. spinach
  • 20 oz. fresh grape (or cherry) tomatoes
  • salt
  • pepper
EQUIPMENT 
  • stockpot
  • mixing bowl
  • baking sheet, foil lined
  • deep skillet / shallow pot
  • cheese grater (preferably hand crank)
DIRECTIONS 
  1. Preheat oven to 475°.
  2. Fill stockpot with enough water to boil 1 lb. pasta (about 5 quarts).
  3. Line baking sheet with foil and grease with thin layer of olive oil.
  4. In a mixing bowl, coat tomatoes with small amount of olive oil. Salt and pepper generously.
  5. Place tomatoes in pre-heated oven for 7-10 minutes, until skins blister and begin to brown. Set pan aside once done.
  6. In a deep skillet, coat bottom with olive oil, turn to medium-low, and add minced garlic (as a time saver, instead of mincing fresh garlic, substitute with 2 tsp. jarred minced garlic).
  7. Sauté fresh garlic for 2 minutes then add pancetta, cooking on medium heat for 3-5 more minutes, until garlic softens and pancetta edge’s begin to brown.
  8. Add pasta to boiling water. Cook according to package instructions, drain, then set aside.
  9. Add cream and pesto and blend the mixture well.
  10. Add grated parmesan then blend well.
  11. Add spinach and stir in until fully reduced.
  12. Add the pasta, ¼ of the total amount at a time. Mix well. The pasta may be a little “wet” at first but remember that pasta soaks up liquid and will dry out as it cools.
  13. Add tomatoes and gently mix in.
  14. Top with additional fresh parmesan and enjoy.

Pesto Pancetta Florentine Pasta

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