Welcome to Cooking with Grace! This is where Grace Singleton, a managing partner at the Deli, shares her favorite products and delectable home cooking tips with us. This week, she shows us how to make Pasta Primavera like a pro!
I love pasta and always have ever since I was a kid. Adding lots of vegetables to it makes me even happier. You can use whatever selection of vegetables you have available and like to eat—broccoli, peppers, cauliflower, spinach, snap peas are all tasty. I like to cook everything in one pot, and if I have some vegetables that tend to take longer to cook than others, I would add those to the pan first, and when they are partially cooked, throw in the shorter-cooking veggies.
I started this dish with pancetta from La Quercia in Iowa. Pancetta is essentially an Italian version of bacon, and this one is made from a Berkshire Duroc crossbred hog. I bought a chunk of the flat pancetta and cut 1/4-inch thick slices into 2 inch lengths and placed them in a high sided skillet on medium-high heat until light brown (I find that having a full chunk lasts longer than slices, and I can cut to the thickness I like when I need it, but we’re happy to slice it for you at the Deli if you prefer).
Kurdish Chile Pepper
Here are the next steps (see full ingredients list at the bottom of this post): Remove the browned pancetta and set aside for later. Add the onions to the fat left from the pancetta in the bottom of the skillet. Once the onions are translucent add garlic to taste, thyme, or other herbs as desired, and any other vegetables. I used fresh carrots cut into a 1/2-inch dice and some kohlrabi greens I had frozen from last falls harvest. I chopped the greens into small pieces (about 1-inch in diameter) and added the San Marzano tomatoes from Terra Amoree Fantasia in Naples Italy and sea salt and pepper to taste. I also really like adding the smoky flavor of the Kurdish Chile Pepper from Epice de Cru—if you’ve had the Urfa pepper we’ve sold under the Zingerman’s label for many years, you’ll love this.
The greens take a while to cook down, and the acidity from the tomatoes helps break them down, but I like to add a couple tablespoons of sherry or cava vinegar to give it a little extra kick. The tomatoes are whole, skinned tomatoes in their own juice and make a light sauce for the pasta. They have great flavor as they are canned at the peak of harvest and ripeness, and taste much better than the tomatoes I can buy fresh in the store right now. And, if you want more tomato sauce, just add a second can of tomatoes to your pan.
I chose the Gentile brand pasta in the vesuvio shape (“vesuvio” means volcano shape) for my dish. The pasta is made from 100 percent Italian semolina, including some senatore capelli, the pasta shapes are formed using bronze dies (this leaves a rough exterior texture that helps the sauce cling to it), and are dried slowly at low temperatures. When you cook the pasta be sure to salt the water, and after cooking, save a little of the pasta water—you’ll add the drained pasta into the pot with the cooked vegetables and add a little bit of the pasta water and let it reduce for a couple minutes. The starch from the pasta water helps thicken up the sauce.
Serve the pasta while it’s still warm, sprinkle each serving with a few pieces of the pancetta you fried off when you started (assuming you haven’t snacked on all of it already!) and grate some cheese over the top. Parmesan Reggiano is always wonderful, but I wanted something a little softer and easier melting, so I went with the Danby from Consider Bardwell Farm. It’s a raw goats milk cheese made in the style of piave or asiago and adds a wonderful depth of flavor.
Here’s an ingredient list:
4 oz. pancetta from La Quercia
1 medium sized onion
3-4 garlic cloves
1 can 400 gram san marzano tomatoes
3 medium carrots, 1/2-inch dice
3 cups fresh or frozen greens 1-inch chop
salt to taste
Kurdish chile peppers from epice de cru to taste
1/2 bag Gentile brand pasta
2 ounces Danby Cheese from consider bardwell farm grated