Monday, June 7, 2010

In Which Kate Puts the Calories back in a recipe

Thank you for your patience this week. Over the weekend, the sweetie and I joined a couple of friends at Newport's Annual Chowder Cookoff. For several hours, we sampled about twenty kinds of chowder (clam, seafood and "creative"), and I also indulged in a couple of clam cakes and some strawberry shortcake. I also had lobster for dinner--grilled, which was a delicious experience.

I was going to cook dinner when we came home on Sunday, but after all the chowder and a brunch that ended with key lime pie, I decided not to cook. I could have put up an entry, but I really wanted to try this week's recipe a second time before I blogged about it.

I like pasta a lot, in all shapes and sizes, though not all grains. I would have to be dying to eat whole-wheat pasta, for example, but I like Barilla's multigrain line. Anyway  I've always considered it more of a main dish than a side. Woe to my hips, but anyway. I looked at the recipe, and saw that it made four servings, I figured this had to be a side dish. I thought I could simply make it as is and it would work for two main dish meals. Let's look at the ingredients:

    *   8  ounces  uncooked cavatappi pasta The first time I made the recipe, I only had Angel Hair in the house. The second time, I bought some celetani, because I could not find cavatappi.

    * 1  pound  asparagus, trimmed and cut diagonally into 1 1/2-inch pieces
    * 1  teaspoon  minced garlic 
    * 3  tablespoons  pine nuts I reduced this to 2 Tbsp the second time. 1 tbsp pine nuts per person seems to work as a rule of thumb. My thumb, anyhow.
    * 2  ounces  diced pancetta I know Cooking Light is about saving calories, but this little meat for a dish meant for four people? I'd be embarassed to serve something that basically has a "tease" of a meat taste. 
    * 2  tablespoons  fresh lemon juice I ran a little short the first time. The freshness it adds is fabulous and really made the dish something special the second time.
    * 2  teaspoons  extra-virgin olive oil
    * 1/2  teaspoon  kosher salt
    * 1/4  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
    * 1/4  cup   (1 ounce) crumbled Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese I cut this in half for round two

1. Preheat oven to 400°.

2. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; add asparagus to pan during last 3 minutes of cooking. Drain. Sprinkle pasta mixture with garlic; return to pan, and toss well.

This is a question of style where I disagree. Instead, I started the pasta while the pancetta was in the oven (below). It's not that difficult to multitask one dish in an oven and one on the stove.

3. Arrange pine nuts in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan. Bake at 400° for 3 minutes or until golden and fragrant, stirring occasionally. Place in a small bowl.

I find it takes a little longer than three minutes, your mileage and oven may vary.

4. Increase oven temperature to 475°.

5. Arrange pancetta on jelly-roll pan. Bake at 475° for 6 minutes or until crisp.

This took a little longer than stated as well. If you don't have an oven thermometer, its a good gadget to have.  

6. Combine lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle over pasta mixture; toss well to coat. Sprinkle with pine nuts, pancetta, and cheese.

The second time I made the recipe was miles more successful than the first, though it completely killed the whole "light" concept. The meat was definitely in attendance at the party, not just a wallflower cowering in the corner. Also, the pasta held up against the asparagus. As much as I like my angel hair, the asparagus totally overwhelmed it in the first time I tried the dish.

If you have to omit any ingredients for whatever reason, don't make it the lemon juice in this one. My audience (this would be Ken the sweetie) thought the first incarnation a little blah, but really enjoyed the second one.

Questions? Comments? Have a recipe for me to try? I'd love to hear from you!


  1. your weekend sounds fabulous and that meal looks divine. :)

  2. I love pasta but I need to learn how to make different kinds pasta sauce other than tomato sauce.