Festonati in a Pork Ragu, with Fennel, Cherry Tomatoes and Thyme
Of the million and one types of pasta in the world, this one here was a new one to me- Festonati! I saw them and knew I had to try them- large sized macaroni typed tubes, with folded-over ends and indentations along their length... which makes them perfect to cover in rich sauce- mmm!
The word, "festonato", translates from the Italian, to the English "scalloped"- hence the ridged shape. And these festonati (plural), do indeed look like strange, alien sea-shells of some kind... and taste pretty "out of this world" when combined with a tangy pork and cherry tomato sauce with some pan-fried fennel and a little Parmesan... keep on reading to find out how to make it!
First things first... I needed to prepare a little of the classic Italian "soffritto" for the sauce- meaning finely chopped carrot, onion and celery. I also prepared some chopped parsley, thyme and garlic. I halved a generous 10 cherry tomatoes per portion for the sauce, and finely chopped a slice of pork fillet- about a handful. I cut the fennel into bite-sized strips. And with those ingredients at the ready... I decided to get this little pasta party started!
I boiled the pasta for 7 of the 9 minutes that the directions suggested- which gave me plenty of time to get the sauce ready. I started off though with the fennel, which I sautéed with a little sugar, salt and pepper in a a dash of olive oil until it began to brown gently. I then removed it and set it to one side, and moved swiftly on with the cherry tomatoes, which I also sautéed briefly at a high heat and set to one side.
Next, a little more olive oil, the sofritto, the garlic and the finely chopped pork came into the pan. By this time, there was quite an accumulation of flavors already going on at the bottom of that frying pan! Which was all good news and great taste! After 3-4 minutes of frying, I added a good tablespoon of tomato paste per person and stirred it in well. I immediately deglazed the pan with a ladle of boiling water from the pasta. I continued stirring and as the sauce reduced down I added a little more water.
At this point, the pasta was ready to drain and then add to the sauce in the frying pan. I added the chopped parsley and thyme, the cherry tomatoes and the fennel slices and stirred together gently but thoroughly, so that everything got nicely coated. I seasoned with salt, pepper, a hint of cayenne and a tiny squeeze of lime- just enough to give the sweet flavor of the fennel a little "lift". And 2-3 minutes of gentle simmering later, this wonderful plate of pasta was ready to be enjoyed! And enjoy it you will too if you give it a try! And I sure hope you do too!