Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Rags to Ridges

Penne Rigate con Straccetti di Maiale, Salvia & Sedano
Penne Rigate with Strips of Pork, Sage and Celery

The word "straccetti", or "little rags", is the description used in Italy to describe thin strips of meat such as these. The word "righe", meaning "ridges", is the word that the description "rigate" is derived from- hence the name "penne rigate", or "penne with ridges". So now you know ;-)

Also, if you are reading this, you plainly know that I brought these two ingredients together at suppertime this evening. More by chance than by design, more out of curiosity than necessity, I came up with this idea. There were 2 small slices of pork tenderloin left over from the other night and deciding that they would make only a meagre main course, I decided to use them in a slightly unusual way and to combine them with sage and celery, to make a tasty and rather different pasta dish. I am pretty good at doing things like that, you know... 

So here you have it- no more than a good handful of very thinly sliced pork strips, a shallot, half a carrot, a young, tender stick of celery (including the pale yellow leaves) and 5-6 fresh sage leaves. I doubt that it really matters exactly which cut of pork you would use for this, as it is cut so thinly and cooked so briefly, but as I said- this was an experiment with the tenderloin and it worked just fine.

The only prep-work to be done here, was to very finely dice the carrot, celery and the shallot for the "sofritto". A little garlic would have been a good addition here... but I didn't have any and shock! Horror! I used a little garlic salt to make up for it... but don't tell everybody!

The method here was simple- the water needed to boil for me to cook the penne in, so in the meantime I did the slicing and chopping that I have already mentioned and then the fun began. 

As soon as I had added the penne to the water, along with a good teaspoon of salt for this single serving, I heated up my non-stick frying pan nice and hot to be ready for the pork, which I then added with no extra fat. Of course, tenderloin is very lean, but it still had enough fat on it, so that when I added the sofritto, everything began to fry and brown wonderfully together.

Next, I added 4-5 sage leaves, finely chopped, a couple of finely chopped celery leaves, a pinch of garlic salt, a generous grind of pepper. Suddenly the whole kitchen smelled wonderful! As soon as the meat had changed color from bright pink to almost white, I deglazed the pan with a quick splash of white wine and a ladle of cooking water from the penne. This brought up all of the good flavors from the bottom of the pan.

After 6-7 minutes of cooking, the pasta was "getting there", but still really firm... perfect time to add it to the pork! So in it went, ladle-for-ladle, until it was all in the frying pan with just enough of the water to keep everything nice and moist.

I let the pasta, pork and sofritto gently simmer away and cook together, so that the pasta became flooded with good flavors and the pork became nice and tender. It only took 3-4 minutes at the most, on a nice high heat, all of the excess water evaporated away and all that was left was pasta, nice and juicy and flavorful!

I added a nice splash of olive oil before serving and tossed it through thoroughly, then added a few more of each the tiny, yellow, intense celery leaves and a couple of the youngest and tenderest sage leaves, along with a generous grind of coarse ground pepper.

So, sure, this was as usual a very simple and modest dish, but at the same time, the rich essential oils of the sage leaves and celery went so well with the pork, that together with the touch of wine, the sofritto and a hint of garlic... you couldn't want for much more flavor!

Try it and see- I myself was skeptical as to whether the pork would bring enough flavor with it- but it certainly does! I think I will be doing this again sometime soon and I think that you should all make it too!

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