Monday, 6 January 2014

Grains and Greens and In-Betweens

Spaghettini di Grano Saraceno, Cime di Rapa, Patate, Pecorino & Pancetta
Buckwheat Spaghetti with Cime di Rapa, Potato, Pecorino & Bacon

It may seem like a strange combination to some of you, but down in Southern Italy and even in Sicily, adding potatoes to pasta dishes is not that unusual a thing- and even more so than that- it is a pretty wonderful thing too!

If I had, had buckwheat flour at home, I may have made my own pasta, and it would have been "Pizzoccheri", which are short lengths of tagliatelle-wide noodles- these are the original and authentic buckwheat noodles of choice to be eaten with potato, cime di rapa and more often than not, delicious Italian salsiccia with fennel seeds. Alas, this was not to be... but since when has that kind of detail held me back from making something delicious for supper anyway? Like... never!

What I did have was some chopped bacon and a nice slab of matured and peppered Pecorino cheese... the cime di rapa were there... the will was there... but the Pizzocheri weren't! What to do?! What to do?!

The thing to do was to calm down and think for a minute. What I DID have at home, was Asian buckwheat noodles- which may not be the same shape as the real deal and may not be as long as regular Italian spaghetti... but they have the same buckwheat flavor that goes so well with the potatoes and that was good enough for me- and in a pinch... it should be good enough for you too!

So how did I make this? Pretty simple really. The first thing I did was to wash and chop the greens, stalks and all of course, as these are lovely, juicy and flavorful. I then diced up a small potato and put that onto my steam rack first, then the greens on top. In went some water, on went the lid, up went the heat and on the stove top they sat for about 10 minutes. 

In the meantime I finely chopped half of a small onion and a little garlic- just a half a clove is more than enough for a single portion- trust me. I coarsely grated a 
little Pecorino for later- I had a yummy peppered one at home, but you can always use Parmesan or Grana... or even salted Ricotta if you prefer... and that was all the prep-work that was involved!

After 10 minutes, I removed the steam rack from my saucepan, added a little more water to the now green water that all of the juices from the rapa had dripped back into and brought it up to the boil. 

In the meantime, I lifted the greens off the top of the potatoes and popped the potatoes, chopped bacon or pancetta, garlic and onion into a frying pan, with a pinch of cumin seeds and started them sizzling away.

As soon as the water in my saucepan came up to the boil, I added salt and then the noodles, which soften a cook a lot quicker than spaghetti. I let them boil for 3 minutes and then turned off the heat. 

Back in the frying pan, the bacon had started to crisp, the potatoes to brown, the onion had softened and begun to turn golden and the smell was pretty delicious! Time to add the greens and a nice splash of olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and a hint of nutmeg. After sautéing the ingredients together for 2-3 minutes, as soon as the greens were up to temperature, I drained off the noodles and added them into the mix.

All that was left to do now was to toss them with the potato and greens and then serve them up, piping hot, with the pecorino and a last light drizzle of olive oil. being as the cheese had pepper corns in it- I didn't even have to do that- but if your cheese doesn't- you know that pepper is pretty much a must before enjoying your pasta!

And enjoy it you will! This is a great mix- the slightly bitter greens, the salty bacon and cheese, the nutty flavored noodles and the mild potato... give it a try and you'll soon see why!

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