Rigatoni with Sundried Tomatoes, Pancetta, Fresh Mozzarella and Basil

Mariel here. I’m not sure if it was Lana’s BLT Pasta over at Never Enough Thyme or How Sweet EatsCreamy Caprese Pasta that originally inspired me, but somewhere, somehow this dish occurred to me while standing in front of the fridge. I was hemming and hawing over what to make for lunch – a daily ritual that typically ends in me eating a pint of olives and 30 crackers unless there are leftovers at my disposal – when I looked at the top shelf and saw pancetta, fresh mozzarella and sundried tomatoes all perched prettily in a row, begging to be jumbled together. Just the day earlier, I had purchased a little basil plant for the windowsill – it’s still alive! – so you might say this recipe made itself.

Since the pancetta and sundried toms are such concentrated, powerhouse flavors, the mozzarella and basil act as the perfect foils, infusing a freshness and delicateness that offsets all that intensity. This dish saves beautifully and if you’re looking for a cold pasta salad, this also works really well right out of the fridge or at room temperature. It’s ready in under 30 minutes – no, really – and it’s fancy enough for guests or a romantic date night dinner, if you do such things. Enjoy!

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Rigatoni with Sundried Tomatoes, Pancetta, Fresh Mozzarella and Basil
Serves 3-4

Ingredients:
½-lb (8 oz) whole wheat pasta, I recommend rigatoni or penne for this dish – $1.69
¾ cup reserved pasta water – n/a
¼ lb thickly cut pancetta, chopped into cubes – $4.00
3 oz sun-dried tomatoes (about 15), chopped – $1.25
1 Tablespoon olive oil – stock
¼ cup white wine (I used Sauvignon Blanc, cooking wine also works) – stock
¼-lb of fresh mozzarella, cubed – $2.50
Handful of fresh basil, finely chopped – $1.89
Plenty of fresh black pepper – stock
Grand total assuming “well-stocked” kitchen: $11.33
Cost per serving: $2.83

Directions:
1. Boil a medium-size pot of salted water and cook pasta according to package directions (cook until it’s al dente, not too soft). Strain pasta over a measuring glass and reserve ¾-cup of the starchy water. This will serve as the liquid for your sauce. Set the pasta and the pasta water aside (separately).

2. In a skillet, brown the chopped pancetta over med-high heat, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Reduce heat to low (or med-low) and add the sundried tomatoes, olive oil, white wine and black pepper. Let the alcohol cook off and the wine reduce, about 4 minutes. Make sure to stir and scrape the bottom of the pan frequently to dredge up all those flavorful bits.

3. Increase the heat to medium and add the ¾-cup of reserved pasta water, simmering for 2 minutes. Toss in the cooked pasta and cook another minute, then remove from heat. Add the fresh basil and mozzarella, toss until just combined and serve hot.

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