Wednesday, 5 March 2014

All Ears at Suppertime...

Orecchiette con i Carciofini, Piselli, Pancetta, Erba Ursina & Menta
Orecchiette, Artichoke Hearts, Peas, Bacon, Ramps and Mint

Are you listening carefully? Good- then I will tell you all about my supper this evening! Because whilst we are on the subject of listening, I can't help but remind you again that the pasta shape named "orecchiette", literally translates as "little ears" in English... which you most probably already knew- but if you didn't already know it... then you do now!

And looking at the shape of them, it is not hard to imagine how someone came up with the name, many, many moons ago- because this is indeed one of the older pasta shapes and forms and one of the best loved too. It's hollowed-out shape makes it a perfect carrier for sauces- but also for bacon, herbs and peas this evening... and some lovely, baby artichoke hearts too, just to make it extra delicious!

Apart from the fact that I happened to have lovely, fresh peas from the market and delicious ramps to "up the stakes" in the flavor department- this was actually a bit more of an "emergency meal" and is definitely one that you can whip together in just 10 minutes... I kid you not!

The ingredients I needed for this were- a couple of handfuls of orecchiette, 2 lean rashers of bacon, 4 artichokes out of the jar (in water), 4 leaves of ramps and a good couple of handfuls of fresh peas. As usual... such an easy but good combination- at least I think so! Anything with mint and peas and artichokes in it... I am your man! And with crisy bacon on top... that all just sounds too wonderful for words now- doesn't it?

To make this, I started off by shelling the peas of course, which I did whilst the water I needed for the orecchiette to come up to the boil,. Once it did, I added a good pinch of salt to water, added the orecchiette, gave them a good stir and added the peas, as they do take a few minutes longer than frozen peas. 

And whilst the orecchiette and peas bubbled away, I took care of the rest...

I cut the bacon rashers into small pieces and popped them into a non-stick frying pan, turned the heat up high and let the bacon begin to sizzle. In the meantime, I scooped 4 artichokes out of the jar and let them drip dry for a couple of minutes. Mine were the kind preserved in brine and not oil, but either kind is good. 

I halved the artichokes and added them to the bacon in the frying pan, with the cut surface facing downward, so that they could brown nicely whilst I got busy chopping up the herbs- a handful of fresh mint and the 4 tender ramp leaves.

By now the pasta had been boiling for 5-6 minutes, which made it perfect to move on to the next step of preparation. I removed the crispy bacon and artichokes from the pan, poured off most of the water from the orecchietti and then poured them into the frying pan... whooosh! There was a sudden cloud of steam and then the water in the pan came up to a nice gentle simmer, bringing up all of the good flavor from sizzling the bacon. 

Next step was to add the fresh and finely chopped ramps and mint, along with a nice grating of fresh nutmeg and plenty of freshly ground pepper. I let the orecchiette simmer for a further 2-3 minutes until they were nice and "al dente" and the water had all but evaporated away.

With the artichokes and bacon bits added, a light drizzle of olive oil, a little fresh pepper and a grating of salted Ricotta cheese, this wonderful and sophisticated pasta dish was complete. And it was so simple to make as well- which is always something that I like and something that I am guessing, you will like too!

Artichoke, mint and peas... a classic combination! Bacon and salted Ricotta? Almost guaranteed to float most everybody's boat! It certainly did mine this evening... in fact, I wish I had made a little bit more of them... so that I could have a second plateful right now!  


  1. Wow, this looks gorgeous, Francesco! I have some orecchiette that need cooking tonight, and this might be just the ticket!

  2. You will like it Frank- I promise! It's just a good combination! Hope you try it - and hope you enjoy! :-D Saluti, Francesco