pasta, pasta, everywhere. in your mouth, and in your rancid, buttery hair ::::
For the amount of pasta I cook, I am astounded at the paltry list of pasta recipes I have on this blog so far. Given, most of those noodles are covered with nothing but some melted butter, spooned on a plastic Dora the Explorer plate or a highchair tray, and served with some string cheese or chicken nuggets on the side. Even if the pasta is prepared for the kids, I have eaten more buttered noodles this year than I have in my entire life. Having two children who are fond of every pasta shape for practically every meal, I often make extra, sometimes saving it for another meal. I often surrender and eat it myself, standing up at the kitchen counter, bowl in hand as I survey the children’s finished plates, greasy faces smelling of butter. If I dress it up, I may add some flavorful olive oil and pepper to finish, or maybe some Parmesan cheese.
Sometimes I break from the butter and delve into some other pasta permutations. Like pancetta. Or pine nuts. And even some minty madness. It was almost 10 years ago when Eat and I discovered this recipe, never disappointed with the variety of flavors. It’s a fusion of Italian and Greek: tangy Romano cheese and pasta with the salty Calamata and mint. And the campanelle pasta was too good to pass up: I heard these little gems sing to me in the grocery store and have had a hard time going back to the farfelle. The Italian word campanelle means “little bells,” singing joyfully as the pasta sauce massages itself all over the campanelle’s petals and such.
And campanelle in this dish loves fatty pork. These little bells are chubby chasers, the fattiness giving the dish more depth of flavor. Don’t try the low fat ground pork — it just doesn’t match up. And the sprinkle (or easily, handful) of pine nuts give the dish a butteriness, a creaminess. Almost better than butter. Almost better than buttery children.
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 small onion, minced
- 1 celery rib, minced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, cut into thin strips (Cubed pancetta works great also.)
- ⅓ cup finely chopped mint
- 1 pound fatty ground pork*
- ½ cup pine nuts, toasted (Blanched slivered almonds are a fair substitute.)
- ½ cup coarsely chopped pitted Calamata olives (very salty)
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- ½ cup dry white wine
- ¾ pound to 1 pound campanelle** (or other pasta -- shells or farfelle work well)
- ½ cup to ¾ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese (depending on your love of cheese and saltiness)
- Heat the oil in a skillet. Add the onion, celery, garlic, pancetta and 3 tablespoons of the mint. Cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until the pancetta is slightly crisp, about 6 minutes.
- Push the onion mixture to the side of the skillet (I actually move mine to another plate to prevent burning). Add the pork and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in the pinenuts and olives, season with salt and pepper; cook for 1 minute. Add the wine; simmer over moderate heat until reduced to 2 tablespoons, about 5 minutes. (Sometimes I let it go for longer.)
- In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente; drain well. Add the pasta to the skillet and toss with the sauce over moderately high heat for 1 minute. Mix in the cheese. Serve the pasta in bowls, sprinkled with the remaining 2 tablespoons of mint and serve with more cheese, if needed.
** I use ¾ to 1 pound uncooked pasta in this dish, depending on how juicy the wine reduction is.