The other day I had the Food Network on while I was cleaning my condo, and Giada was making pancetta linguine with porcini mushrooms in a garlic cream sauce. Oh, heavens, it looked so good! I could almost smell the garlic through my television. It was almost dinnertime, and I decided I wanted to try and make something similar.
I started poking through my cupboards and refrigerator drawers, and discovered that, sadly, I did not have pancetta or porcini mushrooms. (This was not a surprise.) One of the things I have had to learn to do while on my restricted budget is to not rush out and buy this ingredient or that ingredient, if I can make do with what I have. Apparently, this is not a new concept; in fact, this is how most of the world approaches cooking. Anyhoo, I didn’t have pancetta, but I did have bacon, and I didn’t have mushrooms (go figure, because I usually do), but I did have both kalamata olives, and tomatoes. Of course, I also had garlic – I will always have garlic – but I didn’t have milk or cream. So I decided to do a white wine sauce, rather than a cream sauce – theoretically, that is healthier for you anyway, right?
The first thing to do was cook the bacon. I just sliced it up – probably could have sliced it smaller, but my knife needs to be sharpened and it was taking too long.
Then tossed it into a skillet. Yup, this is still the same extremely white bacon as before…I finally used it up!
Just let the bacon simmer, and try and get as much fat out of it as possible! That’s what I tell myself, anyway.
Let it cook for about 7 minutes, then, when the bacon (or pancetta, if you have some on hand or can afford it) is dark and crispy, just remove it from the pan and set it on a plate. I usually put it on a paper towel and pat it down to try and absorb as much grease as possible. This picture (below) is pre-degreasing. Then just set it aside until the rest of the sauce is done.
Once the bacon is done, put a pot of water on the back burner. Throw in a pinch of salt, and bring to a boil. This will be for the noodles. In the meantime, pour out most of the bacon grease (not down the drain!! learned that one the hard way) and put some garlic in the grease with the heat on medium. So, most people would probably measure their garlic in cloves or heads – my dad does and all my cookbooks do. But, I don’t have a dishwasher, and having to wash an extra cutting board, knife, and soak my hands for an hour to get rid of the garlic smell just does not seem efficient to me, so I buy the minced kind in the jar. It does taste a teensy bit different (ok, quite a bit different) but it’s still garlic. So usually I just stick a spoon in and add a heaping spoonful. In this recipe…that turned out to be a lot. I’m not really sure what happened.
See all those little bits? Those are garlic pieces. Yikes! Oh well. Also, add in some kalamata olives. Some people don’t like them, because they do have quite a strong flavor and can be very salta, and might kind of be an acquired taste. But these are not as salty as others I have tasted, and I love olives, so I threw in a bunch.
Then I added some white wine. Then I realized I had added a lot of wine…so it was going to have to be cooked down substantially. In the meantime, I put my linguine in the pot on the back burner.
In the spirit of full disclosure, this is also when I decided that this pasta was going to need something to balance out the salt of the olives and the bacon, so I added some tomatoes. I love tomatoes. I think they give almost every dish a fresh, lighter taste. I also decided that the sauce needed to be thickened a bit, so I threw in a pinch of flour. Call me crazy. I don’t even know if the sauce thickened because of the flour, or if the sauce was just already at the point of reduction, but either way it worked out okay in this case. I periodically checked the linguine, too, because I really hate mushy noodles. You have to remember that noodles will keep cooking even after you remove them from the water, so it is much better to take them out when they are al dente then to wait until they are soggy. If the noodles are done, remove from heat and drain the water.
Just let the sauce simmer for a couple of minutes so everything comes together and the flavors have a chance to mingle. You have to keep an eye on it and stir occasionally, though, while you are draining your noodles.
When the noodles have been drained, and rinsed if you’re that kind of person (I am), just add them right on top of the sauce! This is my favorite way to mix things. Mostly because it’s easy.
Stir it up…little darlin’ stir it up…Sorry, I am easily distracted by song lyrics. Stir the noodles together to combine the noodles with all of the sauce. I used metal tongs, and scratched my Teflon. Darn it!
Don’t forget the most important part! If I were serving this for other people, I would have transferred it to a serving bowl and sprinkled the bacon on top, but it was just me, so I mixed it right in.
Then I scooped out what I wanted and put it in a bowl! It smells delicious, like wine and garlic and bacon. How can you not love a dish that combines all of those things? I put some Parmesan on top, because I love cheese. Fun fact: Parmesan cheese’s actual name is Parmigiano-Reggiano, named for the Parma region in Italy where the cheese comes from, but Parmesan is the French word for that same region. Kind of like champagne, Parmesan is legally supposed to refer to a food that comes from a specific region, but people have begun manufacturing what they call “hard Italian cheese” to get around pesky things like patents and copyrights.
This pasta was so extremely yummy! But very rich. I cannot imagine having made it with a cream sauce instead of a white wine sauce – although I suppose Giada was using mushrooms, which are significantly less flavorful than kalamata olives and tomatoes. Just looking at these pictures makes me want to make it again. But it also goes to show that you don’t have to have a bunch of pricey gourmet ingredients to make amazing dishes!