Sunday, March 25, 2012

Guanciale Garden Pasta - Cute Gardener Style

If the old adage is true and the way to a person’s heart is through their stomach, then my boyfriend has wound his way through mine with his never ending variations on the simple bowl of pasta.

When we first met I was pretty amazed by the assortment of pastas he kept on hand in the cupboards and the fridge. The thing that makes his pasta sing is the fact that he uses whatever ingredients are fresh from his garden combined with genius little touches that are not distinctly Italian or of any particular food genre, but more about what’s available, creative, and tasty. You know what you’re getting in a traditional pasta joint whether it be the blander versions of red and white checkered tablecloth spaghetti and meatball fare or more refined, gourmet ragus and exotic meat bologneses in the better osterias; but at the Cute Gardener’s house each time I eat pasta, it’s like receiving a new and unusual little gem of a meal in a bowl.

Last week, he introduced me to perciatelli, a fat version of spaghetti with holes in the middle to expedite the cooking.

It started with two questions. What kind of red wine would you drink with peas, he asked innocently enough on a sunny afternoon. Something burgundy and fruity, I answered. And what about bacon, he asked next, making my mouth water in anticipation for what I was hoping to be a dinner of some form of carbonara. Something bloody, I replied. A sangiovese/cabernet sauvignon blend provided the answer.

Then the excitement begun, as in watching the parade of ingredients that would make up my dinner being carefully combined and cooked in a pan. First, a big chunk of guanciele, an exquisite pork cheek accentuated by a seasoning rub, was sliced and sautéed to render down all the fat into a wonderful base of flavor.

Next up were the diced white onions and items fresh from his garden including plump fava beans and fresh green peas.

A raw egg thrown into the pot at the last minute was stirred in to create some depth and texture before a dusting of pecorino.

The final touch of crumbled cooked bacon added the exact amounts of saltiness needed to finish off the dish.

Unlike the occasions when we eat pasta out together at restaurants, I seem to always finish my bowls at his house. He has a fine touch with pasta that makes the dish feel light and healthier than when dining out. Or maybe that’s just what I am going to tell myself so that I can keep enjoying the dishes, along with a step up in my samba practice sessions. I don’t see why not; my favorite interview with the iconic bombshell Sophia Loren read years ago was all about her daily habit of a bowl of pasta when asked about how she keeps up her beauty. When eating Roman….

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