Weekly Winner: Another Pork Pasta Palooza!

pork pastaYou know you’re doing something right when your husband equates a Friday night dinner with “some of the best pastas I’ve had in any restaurant”. Boo-ya, Spatula-drop!

Admittedly, it’s hard to go wrong with pork shoulder, cheese, and pasta — not just any pasta either but egg pappardelle.  Pappardelle is definitely my “favorite” pasta (if it’s possible to have a favorite) and I truly believe that one can save the world with a pork shoulder.

Pork, Fennel and Lemon Ragu with Pappardelle comes from Cook’s Illustrated.  It is definitely not a quick meal to make, but it is relatively “hands-off”.  The trick is to let the oven work it’s magic on that pork shoulder, breaking it down and making it luscious.  The lemon really freshens up the ragu so that it seems lighter but who are we kidding, this is definitely not diet food, but it is supremely delicious, satisfying, apparently “restaurant-quality” food.  That’s good enough for me!

Pork, Fennel and Lemon Ragu with Pappardelle

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:

4 oz pancetta, chopped

1 large onion, chopped fine

1 large fennel bulb, 2 Tbsp fronds chopped, stalks discarded, bulb halved, cored and chopped fine

4 garlic cloves, minced

1-1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp minced fresh thyme

1 tsp pepper

1/3 cup heavy cream

1 (1-1/2 lb) boneless pork butt roast, well trimmed and cut in half across grain

1-1/2 tsp grated lemon zest plus 1/4 cup juice (from 2 lemons)

12 oz pappardelle

2 oz Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (1 cup), plus extra for serving

Procedure:

  1.  Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat over to 350F. Cook pancetta and 2/3 cup water in Dutch oven over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until water has evaporated and dark fond forms on bottom of pot, 8 to 10 minutes. Add onion and fennel bulb and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften and start to brown, 5 to 7 minutes.  Stir in garlic, salt, thyme, and pepper and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  2.  Stir in cream and 2 cups water, scraping up any browned bits.  Add pork and bring to boil over high heat.  Cover, transfer to oven, and cook until pork is tender, about 1-1/2 hours.
  3. Transfer pork to large plate and let cool for 15 minutes.  Cover pot so fond will steam and soften.  Using spatula, scrape browned bits from sides of pot and stir into sauce.  Stir in lemon zest and juice.
  4.  While pork cools, bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Using 2 forks, shred por into bite-size pieces, discarding any large pieces of fat or connective tissue.  Return pork and any juices to Dutch oven.  Cover and keep warm.
  5. Add pasta and 1 Tbsp salt to boiling water and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente.  Reserve 2 cups cooking water, then drain pasta and add it to Dutch oven.  Add Pecorino and 3/4 cup reserved cooking water and stir until sauce is slightly thickened and cheese is fully melted, 2 to 3 minutes.  If desired, stir in remaining reserved cooking water, 1/4 cup at a time, to adjust sauce consistency.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle with fennel fronds.  Serve immediately, passing extra Pecorino separately.

Weekly Winner: Pistachio-Pesto Pappardelle Perfection (with poultry)

I am not easily surprised by pasta. I think that’s because, while I dearly love pasta, I find it difficult to do something surprising with it. There’s not much I don’t like in my pasta but you always kind of know what you’re getting into and what it’s going to taste like. Until last night.

I decided to try Pappardelle with Chicken and Pistachio-Mint Pesto simply because it looked, well… different. I love pistachios and am always anxious to try out a new pesto. Pappardelle is one of my favorite pasta types and you can’t go wrong with chicken and tomatoes. It seemed like a no-brainer.  The zucchini and yellow squash were really the only wild cards here because, while I don’t mind them, I don’t generally seek out recipes with them. If I do eat them, I prefer them raw, which is exactly how they are served in this pasta.

In a word, this dish was amazing! So easy to make and so different from anything else I make on a regular basis. It was bright and hearty yet tasted like you were eating something healthy and nourishing because, well… it is healthy and nourishing. The recipe comes from Food & Wine magazine and is the perfect quick, guilt-free pasta for a satisfying weeknight meal.

Pappardelle with Chicken and Pistachio-Mint Pesto

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1-1/2 cups lightly packed mint leaves

1/2 cup shelled unsalted pistachios (I️ used lightly salted)

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/2 cup olive oil

Kosher salt and pepper

8 oz pappardelle pasta

12 oz shredded rotisserie chicken (3 cups)

1 small zucchini, very thinly sliced or shaved

1 small yellow squash, very thinly sliced or shaved

1-1/2 cups mixed cherry tomatoes, halved, or quartered if large

Procedure:

1. In a food processor, combine the mint with the pistachios and lemon juice and pulse until finely chopped. With the machine on, gradually add the olive oil until incorporated and the pesto is nearly smooth. Scrape into a large bowl and season generously with salt and pepper.

2. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain well, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Add the pasta, chicken,zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes and reserved cooking water to the pesto and toss well. Season generously with salt and pepper and toss again.