Italians, please look away.
Everyone else, here’s something that I made up last week that was so good, I think you should make it too. I used leftover ingredients from the Haddock chowder I’d made the day before and, in using them, I did what Tom Colicchio’s always talking about on “Top Chef”–I developed lots of flavor through careful cooking. Let me show you what I mean.
First, cut 4 or 5 strips of smoky bacon into strips. To be more Italian, you can use Pancetta or Guanciale, but bacon works nicely. Add them to a pot or Dutch oven with a splash of olive oil, turn up the heat to medium and allow the bacon to render until it’s not quite crisp, but lots of the fat has leached out.
To that, add 2 chopped carrots, 2 chopped celery stalks, a small chopped red onion (or half of a large one) and 2 to 3 cloves of chopped garlic. Sprinkle with salt and stir around. Meanwhile, bring another pot of water to a boil.
When the vegetables are soft and fragrant, add a glassful of dry white wine (preferably one you’ve been sipping). At this point, season your boiling water with lots of salt (you want it to taste like the sea) and add your pasta (I recommend rigatoni). Stir that around.
When the wine’s evaporated, add a chopped red tomato or two (I used red heirloom tomatoes from the farmer’s market) with another pinch of salt. When those have cooked for a bit, add a ladleful of pasta cooking water. The starch from that will keep things thick as it continues to reduce. Meanwhile, grate lots of good Parmesan cheese into a bowl.
When the pasta’s just al dente, lift it with a spider into the Bacon Bolognese. Turn up the heat and start stirring it around; is it a very dry in there? Add another ladleful of pasta cooking water. Keep cooking until the pasta’s infused with flavor from the bacon and the wine and cooked all the way through. Take it off the heat, drizzle on some good olive and sprinkle on all that cheese, then serve it up with more cheese grated on top.
You’ll be startled by all the flavor here and really, what did you use? Things you already had.
Consider this a weeknight Bolognese, one that doesn’t take three hours and one that allows you to skip supermarket ground beef (which always makes me feel a little queasy).
Ok, Italians, you can look back now.