Like many of you, I’m sure, I’ve been cooking pasta in the traditional way for years… Boil in plenty of water, make a sauce separately, then combine. Then I saw an article in the New York Times that completely changed my approach to pasta!
Basically you cook the pasta in the same manner that you would make a risotto, by slowly adding stock to the dry pasta and allowing it to absorb the liquid as it cooks. Wow, talk about flavor! The pasta absorbs a deep flavor of the stock, and the starch in the pasta creates a rich, creamy sauce all by itself. So simple and so flavorful… now it feels wrong to plunge pasta into mere water.
For this particular recipe we combined orecchiette with pancetta, porcini mushrooms, shallots, sun-dried tomatoes and Buffalo Parmesan. The cooking method is the essence of simplicity. In a large pot sauté the pancetta, mushrooms, shallots and tomatoes until they are nicely browned. At this point I like to set them aside in a bowl so that they don’t end up overcooking as I cook the pasta. Put a little olive oil into the pot. Toss in the pasta and quickly stir it around to lightly coat with the oil. Now add about ½ cup of chicken stock while stirring continuously. As the stock is absorbed keep adding more and stirring it together. Keep this up until the pasta is cooked to a nice texture and there’s beautiful rich sauce in the pot. Add back the pancetta, mushrooms et al, stir together, grate in some Parmesan and serve. Here’s the recipe.
You can pretty much make this recipe with any ingredients you have on hand. I recently used lamb sausages, portobello mushrooms and a beef stock…. a rich fall flavor!
A note about stock: I’ve always been in the habit of making my own stock (chicken and beef) and keeping it frozen so I always have some on hand. (I know… I’m a bit of a fanatic that way!) However, these days you can get very good stock in the grocery store, often packed in those shelf-storable boxes….Pacific Natural Foods are available in Metro groceries, and are quite good. The Healthy Butcher also makes excellent stocks and sells them frozen.