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Sunday, 1 April 2012

Pasta with Grilled Vegetables & Smoked Pancetta

This dish is one that you can enjoy guilt-free, as it accomplishes the hard task of being both delicious and healthy. Grilling the vegetables imparts bags of flavour, while the smoked pancetta's strong taste means you don't need too much of it. As you can see from the picture, I have also used three different short pasta formats, as a way to employ the many "nearly finished" packets in my cupboard. Doing this not only will help you clearing up space in your kitchen, but it will introduce a few more textures in the dish. If you want to do the same, remember to: stick to the same size of pasta (either short or long format, you can't mix both) and pay attention to the cooking times that the various shapes require (you may have to add one format to your pan first, boil it for a few minutes and then add the second, and so on).

INGREDIENTS (for two people)

  • 180 gr of pasta (short formats work better)
  • 150 gr of smoked pancetta, cut into cubes
  • 2 medium courgettes, cut in ribbons lengthwise (about 1 cm thick)
  • A bunch of asparagus
  • 1 leek, finely chopped 
  • Two handfuls of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
Heat a griddle pan on the hob; brush the courgette ribbons with olive oil and grill them until nice and soft, turning them only once (i.e., when charred strips appear on the side which is directly in contact with the griddle pan). Prepare the asparagus following this recipe. Place your grilled vegetables in a separate bowl and reserve them for later. 

Place a non-stick, large frying pan on to medium-heat hob and gently fry the pancetta cubes, until golden and crunchy. Lift them with a slotted spoon, shaking off the excess oil, and place them in a bowl. Pour away any leftover fat in the pan, and give it a quick wash (be careful as your pan will still be hot). Place the pan back on to the hob, add some fresh olive oil and gently fry the chopped leek until soft (when preparing your leek, make sure you discard the outer leaves of the leek first, and wash it to get rid of any soil). When the leek is cooked, add the grilled vegetables and the pancetta to the pan, toss the ingredients together and season with salt and pepper. Take the pan off the hob and reserve for later.


Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions in plenty of salted boiling water, however subtract two minutes from the recommended cooking time to ensure it is al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving some of the cooking water (half a cup will be more than enough). Place the pan with the vegetables and pancetta back on to the hob, this time on full heat, and sauté the pasta with the vegetables and a little cooking water. Finish it off with the freshly grated parmesan and a good drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. Serve immediately. 

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