Pancetta and leek fettuccine may be one of my new go-to recipes! My parents and Mark’s mom recently visited, and I was determined to make a four-course meal for us. (Why? I truly don’t know.) I had found this recipe from Blogging Over Thyme after aimlessly wandering through bloglovin’ one afternoon, and the photo instantly stood out at me, seeing as I am a sucker for any kind of creamy pasta. I loved that the ingredients were not typical items I had lying around, so it was like a special treat to pick them up at the store for only one purpose: this pasta. This was going to be a really fun trial-and-error recipe to perfect as one of the courses for my “parents are here!” dinner!
A restaurant I recently dined at had a seasonal flatbread topped with house-made pancetta, local Michigan asparagus, red peppers, red wine tomato sauce, shaved Manchego cheese and crispy kale. The executive chef [I know him] presented the dish to us, and offered a little lesson in the pancetta he had recently made in-house. It was PERFECT timing to learn about pancetta, because this was exactly two days after I had added this recipe to my radar. We learned that pancetta is basically the Italian version of bacon, but there are major a few major differences between the two:
- Both bacon and pancetta are cut from the pork belly, seasoned with salt and pepper, and cured.
- After curing, pancetta is rolled up tightly to keep its shape and then hung to dry for a predetermined amount of time. Bacon is not rolled or left to dry, but rather it is smoked.
- Both meats are raw and should be cooked before consuming
The more you know. Now moving on to our next featured ingredient: leeks! Leeks are something you may be familiar with from their presence in soups, like potato and leek soup which is one of my favorites. This vegetable is in the same family as onions and garlic, but offers a milder flavor than either of its relatives. I’m going to be honest and tell you that I had never cooked with leeks before making this dish for the first time, and I had to consult YouTube to discover the proper way to cut leeks … (that link you can find here). It was extremely helpful and informative!
Now that we have a general knowledge of our star ingredients, it’s really just about slowly cooking them together and creating a little magic. Again, Blogging Over Thyme does a tremendous job of walking you through her recipe, I just had a few differences in mine:
- I used egg fettuccine (dry, found in the pasta aisle). I also used thin slices of pancetta and cut them into small pieces, rather than using the cubed pancetta that is also available. Either way will absolutely work.
- Mark and I both agreed that we didn’t particularly care for the crispness of the pancetta the first couple of times I made this. Yes, it makes total sense to mix up the textures and offer some excitement in pasta! So please do that if you wish! For us, we preferred a softer texture to the pancetta, so my redesigned version provides the instructions to achieve that. Either way is wonderful though, and it just depends on your preference!
Please excuse my terrible photos, but I wanted to give you a guide for making your own. Someday I will have a big girl camera to take better ones! 🙂 Also, I would love your opinion and any alterations you made to your own version! This is such a comforting dish, but still provides a sense of sophistication. I hope you enjoy!
[my additional tips!]:
Actual Prep / cook time: 20 minutes
Clean-up difficulty: 2
Overall difficulty to make: 2
Overall satisfaction: 8.5 [I was tempted to lick the bowl.]
Price range? This dish is under $10 for two people.
What I would change next time? Mark suggested some heat and some garlic, but I told him that was totally changing the entire idea of the dish. 🙂
For your own version, I recommend:
- You want heat and garlic? Add it! I like the simple approach to this, and it’s different than other pastas we have had because it’s easy to omit both of those ingredients and still have an absolutely wonderful entrée. Keep it easy and simple!
© 2015 : a flavor journal : by sara alvord
- 1 tbsp. butter
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 4 thin slices pancetta, diced
- 1 small leek, chopped (according to link provided in post)
- 6 oz. dry egg fettuccine
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
- 1/4 tsp. thyme
- another 1/2 tsp. salt (for pasta water)
- Heat large saucepan to medium heat. Once hot, add olive oil to pan.
- Toss in diced pancetta and cook 3-4 minutes, until barely starting to brown.
- Add butter and let melt into pancetta, then add chopped leeks.
- Stir and coat all chopped leeks and pancetta evenly in butter, and cook for 7-8 minutes until leeks become soft.
- While chopped leeks is cooking, add dried fettuccine noodles to boiling, salted water. Cook only a few minutes until al dente. Remove from heat and drain, but keep about 1/4 cup of salted pasta water in a measuring cup to the side.
- In the large sauté pan with leeks and pancetta, pour in heavy cream and turn heat to medium-high. Once simmering, stir the cream sauce around and thoroughly combine with other ingredients. Season with thyme, salt and pepper, then turn heat down to medium-low and let cook for another 3-4 minutes.
- Combine al dente pasta noodles with cream sauce and coat evenly. If sauce is too thick, slowly add pasta water until you reach your desired consistency.
- Serve hot, and top with freshly grated parmesan!