Monday, October 29, 2012
Last week I wrote about how inspired I was by the autumn colors in the market. Pumpkins, cabbages, radicchio...all vegetables with strong hues, and also strong tastes. Come the cold weather my cooking tends to hunker down and I make more soups and stews that feature these goodies.
Even my pasta changes course. My summer repertoire of pastas features things like tomatoes, zucchini and eggplant. Most of these recipes are pretty light and my go to pasta is usually dried penne or rigatoni.
Somehow for me, the idea of fresh pasta, like fettucine, seems heartier and better suited to stand up to the strong tastes fall and winter vegetables. So the other day, when I saw this home made farro fettucine for sale at the Farmer's Market, it seemed to be just calling out to the broccoli romano on display at the next stand over.
Farro is an ancient variety, and I’m a big fan of using the whole grains in salads and in side dishes. But pasta made with farro flour? Not so much. At least the dried kind. It’s often mealy and just not that tasty. But the vendor who sells it at the Farmer’s market (Giulio Pace of Amiternum) uses his own farro flour to make fresh fettucine, which is an altogether different thing. Instead of imparting just mealiness, the farro in this case adds chewiness as well as a distinctive nutty taste.
And broccoli romano? That’s the weird glow in the dark green vegetable below. A kind of cross between broccoli and cauliflower, it has a much stronger taste than either. A head of this fall veg and a huge hunk of guanciale and the first fall dinner of the season was on the table.
Farro Fettucine with Broccoli Romano
1 kilo of fresh fettucine*
1 large head of broccolo romano (or a mix of broccoli and cauliflower)
1/2 cup chopped guanciale or pancetta
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup grated pecorino romano cheese
*If you can find fresh pasta made from whole grain or farro flour, give it a try. If you are in Rome visit the Farmer's Market on Saturday and Sunday in Testaccio to buy it from Giulio Pace. His company is called Amiternum, and he not only sells pasta, but also the flour made from grain he grows and mills himself. He's also happy to throw in a bag of lievito madre (fresh starter) for free if you are in a bread baking mood.
In a saute pan large enough to hold all of vegetables and cooked pasta, pour in the olive oil and heat over medium heat. Add the guanciale and cook until it’s given up its fat, and begins to get crisp. Add red pepper flakes and cook for a minute more.
Add the vegetables, and about a cup of water, along with a 1/2 tsp of salt. Simmer over medium heat, adding more water as necessary. You want the vegetables to be pretty soft, but not to become a total mush. Taste and adjust for seasonings.
In the meantime, cook the pasta in abundant salted water. When al dente, drain, reserving a cup of the pasta cooking water. If you're using fresh fettucine be careful not to let it overcook, which can happen very fast.
Add the pasta to the pan full of vegetables, stirring over low heat. Add some of the water to loosen it up, and also begin to add the cheese, stirring and adding more water to create a creamy coating. Don't over stir, especially if you are using whole grain fresh fettucine, since it tends to be fragile.
Serve with extra grated cheese.