Guanciale ~ cured pig cheeks. You still with me? DeLaurenti's in Pike Place Market was the site of some serious food nirvana for me this week. Italy condensed, in taste. I swear, you can hear Italian food angels singing in that place. Just look at the olive oil section ...
I was after the guanciale made by Salumi (run by Mario Batali's father) in Seattle. Salumi is an artisan Italian meat producer and I am grateful they're based in Seattle. I bought a half pound of what I think of as maiale d'oro - pork gold, envisioning savory pastas and soups in my future. A pasta dish was already building itself in my mind. $96 and a heavy bag later, (not $96 for the pasta, but for alllll of the goodies) I headed for my favorite produce vendors and came away with heads of fresh garlic and basil, and some gorgeous tomatoes that had spent all their days growing in sunshine. Why is it that I even have to mention that? ALL tomatoes should grow up this way! Don't get me started.
I also bought a bag of strascinati pasta from Naples. This pasta is shaped like thick potato chips. The chewy bite of it is marvelous. Another similar type is called cencioni. Now, the dish was nearly done in my mind. Pecorino for zing. And the oink ... the salty, piggy taste of the guanciale. Mmmmmmmm!
So, tonight, after a busy week ... it was time to cook all these wonderful ingredients. I walked out into the night garden, smelling the sweet honeysuckle blossoms on the air. I let the evening light illuminate a white shape and pulled a sweet Walla Walla onion out of the ground. Sweet, sharp, green, earthy ... delicious ~
SUMMERTIME PASTA WITH GUANCIALE
(Strascinati con guanciale)
8 oz. strascinati or cencioni pasta
3 oz. guaniciale, finely cubed or chopped **
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small sweet onion, finely chopped
1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper
3 medium ripe tomatoes, peeled and quartered
3/4 c. fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 t. sea salt
4 oz. grated Pecorino Romano cheese
In large saute pan over medium-high heat, cook guanciale until crisp. Lower heat to medium. Add garlic and onion and saute until translucent. Add salt and pepper. Remove from heat. Bring heavily salted water to boil in large pot, then add pasta and cook until al dente. Meanwhile, put tomatoes, basil and olive oil into bowl of food processor. Pulse until fairly smooth. Once pasta is done, turn of heat, drain and return to pot on the turned off burner. Pour sauce over pasta, stirring gently, until sauce thickens a little. Serve in bowls, with pecorino grated on top.
** pancetta can be used in place of guanciale, but don't use bacon, or it won't be anywhere near the same