I’ve had a realisation a couple of days ago that there is an unforgivable lack of pasta dishes on my blog which is so odd considering we eat pasta 2-3 times a week. I want to say we are pretty Italian in this respect but I am afraid if I check with my Italian friends Tano and Angela they would say that’s still not often enough. 🙂
Oh well to the task at hand, I am presenting you Tagliatelle with Pancetta, Basil and Mozzarella in Tomato Sauce we ate last night. A truly amazing dish that takes a whole 20 minutes to make! This sauce is so flavourful yet simple Brad considers it his signature dish and the guy does NOT really cook.
I learned how to make this little number while watching a friend cook it in front of me in Italy. It was a few years ago on my very first trip to that beautiful country. Little did I know we are going to be always connected to it! Italy is such an amazing place, it captures you as soon as you breath in the air and take in centuries old cityscapes and stays with you forever. Pure magic. And so is their food! Italians are one of those people who will always speak of the quality of the ingredients over the complexity of the cooking process. This dish is a bright example of that philosophy- just a few beautiful ingredients produce stellar results!
Ingredients: (Serves 4-5)
- Tagliatelle (or any other pasta)- 500 gr
- Olive oil- 1 tbsp.
- Basil, sliced- a bunch
- Garlic, minced- 2 cloves
- Pancetta, cubed (or any other unsmoked bacon, cubed not sliced)-100 gr/ 1/2 cup
- Red Chilli flakes (optional)- a little pinch
- Italian Passata, smooth, thick sieved tomatoes (feel free to use crushed tomatoes)-500 gr/2 cups
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Fresh Mozzarella ball- 125 gr
- Parmesan cheese for serving
Before I get deep into cooking instructions I’d like to give a few of tips that will help with achieving an authentic Italian dish at home.
1. Look for pasta produced in Italy or the brand that says 100% durum semolina or 100% durum wheat. That will make a world of difference.
2. Use real parmesan cheese that you have to grate yourself, it costs a bit more but you get a good value for your money because the flavour is incredible and you will need much less to be satisfied.
3. Mix your pasta and sauce as soon as it’s cooked. Pasta in Italy is ALWAYS served mixed with a sauce rather than being scooped on top of plain pasta at the table. Something magical happens when you combine hot pasta with hot sauce as the flavour coats the pasta and gets absorbed by it, so don’t wait until it’s at the table. Do it the Italian way! 🙂
4. Do not overcook pasta. I know every recipe says it but non-Italians horribly overcook their pasta, it really should be cooked al dente. So when you bite into it, it should not taste like noodles from grandma’s Chicken Noodle Soup but have a bit of firmness to it. 🙂
5. And last but not least. it deserves mentioning that Italian food has a bad rep for being unhealthy. Unfortunately, it’s only the case for Italian cuisine outside of Italy. This recipe only uses 100 gr/ 1/2 cup of pancetta and 125 gr/ 1/2 cup of mozzarella for the ENTIRE recipe that can feed 4-6 people!! Not too bad at all!
Alright, let’s get to it.
Set a large pot filled with water and bring it to a boil. When it boils put a good pinch of salt and pasta, cook 1 minute less than your package suggests, it can vary between 7-10 minutes. Remember when you combine it with sauce it will continue cooking.
While you pasta is cooking, heat 1 tbsp. of olive oil in a large pan over medium heat and cook your pancetta until there is virtually no visible fat, add garlic and a pinch of chilli flakes if using and cook for 1 minute, then add half of your basil and tomatoes, bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and let it simmer until pasta is cooked.
When your pasta is cooked al dente, drain it while reserving a cup of water you cooked your pasta in. Put your pasta into the sauce along with the remaining basil leaves. I don’t slice basil leaves, I just tear them as I like bigger pieces.
Then simply tear your fresh mozzarella ball with your hands directly into the pan with pasta.
I have to confess that mozzarella addition is my own twist to this recipe but it turns out so wonderfully gooey. Pure comfort food!
Gently stir fresh mozzarella into your pasta over low heat, add a splash of reserved water if your sauce is getting a bit dry. Take off the heat as soon as mozzarella melts and turns stringy, it will only take a couple of minutes. Serve immediately topped with a bit of freshly grated Parmesan.
And maybe a slice of garlic bread. Not too authentic but a bit of a guilty pleasure for everyone in this family. 🙂
Doesn’t this look incredible!