Monday, January 9, 2012

pasta a la Nigella

A few years ago I watched Nigella Lawson, that Brit cooking goddess, pile this meal in a big dish which she claimed she'd eat while sitting in bed watching telly.  With minimal ingredients this unbelievably simple and satisfying dish is perfect for a hurried weeknight or lazy Sunday supper.

 Since there isn't a sauce, per se, I think it's the perfect way to give the spotlight to a pound of delicious handmade pasta; in this case the sun-dried tomato and basil liguine from Nashwaak Noodles (You could easily use half a pound of dry pasta from the pantry if that's what you have on hand.)

Start off by heating the oven to 460F.  In an oven-proof pan (I used my favourite enamel cast-iron pot) combine about 150g of pancetta (available diced in the deli section) and a couple of tablespoons of garlic-infused olive oil.
 Why buy? 
Make your own garlic olive oil by gently heating three garlic cloves (halved)
in 8 tablespoons of olive oil for an hour until the garlic is soft.
Keep the extra for other dishes, dressings, etc.

To go with this pasta, I chopped up some sun-dried tomatoes left over from the root vegetable tagine.  For a vegetarian option leave out the pancetta and increase the tomatoes.  Depending on how strong the garlic flavour in the oil is, you may want to chop up a clove of garlic to toss in the pot.

Make sure everything is good and coated with oil and pop in the oven for about 10 minutes, long enough to render the fat in the pancetta and slightly brown the meat. In the meantime cook the pasta.  Before draining set aside a cup or so of the pasta water.

Remove the pot from the oven, add the cooked pasta and toss until the pasta is coated in oil.  If you need to loosen up the pasta a little, add the reserved water drop by drop.  This is a good trick for most pasta dishes.  Adding a touch of pasta water helps make any pasta and sauce slick and silky and ensures an even coating.

To finish off the dish, Nigella makes a point of saying she doesn't bother with Parmesan but pasta without a little freshly shaved Parm just isn't my thing.  A little roughly chopped or scissored parsley adds a burst of bright freshness to the dish.

Now go curl up and enjoy!

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