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Cover: Mamma Mia!

Recipes with bacon

25Jul 12

Bacon and Borlotti Soup

Bacon and Borlotti Soup

 

I’ve called this bacon and borlotti partly for the benefit of English readers, and partly because I like the alliteration. You could of course use bacon instead of the pancetta I suggest, but of course thin rashers of bacon aren’t rustic, authentic or, let’s face it, macho! (For a vegetarian recipe using similar kidney beans, try this cheesy chilli sin carne.)

This recipe calls for “small soup pasta”. We have terms like ‘pasta in brodo’, which translates as pasta in broth, or ‘pastina’, the latter meaning literally, little pasta. Such pasta comes in many forms including, amongst the smaller types suitable for this recipe, annellini, grattini or stellini, the last of which are, as the name suggests, little stars! Nowadays many stores sell bags of small pasta in mixed sizes and shapes specifically for soup, so you can you have fun seeing what you can find.

Once the pasta is ready, take the soup off the heat and let stand to cool off a little before serving. Nobody wants to scald their mouth; we like to taste our food after going to the effort of cooking it!

Have a nice crusty loaf of unsliced bread and some butter handy, so you break off nice chunks and dip them in the soup. The Parmesan shaving, parsley sprigs and olive oil are all optional extras, and you may not feel you need them.

Bacon & Borlotti Soup
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
A hearty and savoury soup with Borlotti beans and small soup pasta
Ingredients
  • 100 ml water
  • 15g dried porcini
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 stick of celery, finely chopped
  • 1 sprig of rosemary, roughly chopped
  • 200g canned borlotti beans, drained and washed
  • 100g small soup pasta
  • 75g pancetta, cubed
  • 100ml red wine
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato purée
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper
  • Parmesan shavings, parsley sprigs and extra virgin olive oil, to garnish
Instructions
  1. - Dried mushrooms need reviving, 'ravvivare' as we say: boil the 100ml of water, pour into a heat-proof bowl or container, and plop your porcini in, making sure they're all taking a proper hot bath! Soak for 15 minutes, drain (reserving the flavoured fluid), gently squeezing out any excess moisture.
  2. - Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan, over a low heat, adding the cubed pancetta, carrot, onion and celery. Cook for ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn the heat up to medium and add rosemary, garlic and porcini, allowing to cook through for a minute or two.
  3. - Add the borlotti beans and red wine, turn up the heat and boil off the wine. Stir in the tomato purée, followed by the chicken stock and the liquid from soaking the mushrooms. Bring back to the boil, before reducing the heat and simmering the soup gently for about ten minutes.
  4. - Bring the soup back to the boil again and add your pasta, keep stirring the whole mixture, cooking it till the pasta is al dente. Small pasta is best for this recipe, as it keeps the soup kind of rustic and manageable, and also, importantly, will cook quickly.
  5. – Let cool just a bit before serving.

 

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14Apr 12

Bacon and Avocado Strozzapreti

Bacon and Avocado StrozzaprettiBacon and avocado make a wonderful combination: intensely rich, dark and naturally salty, the flavour of the bacon combines perfectly with the soft, smooth and light, but equally rich avocado, whilst the rough crunch of the former contrasts nicely with the buttery smoothness of the latter.

For a more rustic Italian feel, use lardons, or thick slices of bacon chopped into roughly equal sized and fairly small cubes. If you’re using thinner bacon slices, chop the pieces slightly larger, about 2.5 cm square.

Strozzapreti is traditionally hand-made, so why not try it with homemade pasta dough? Being very rustic irregular shapes and sizes are part of its peasant charm.

The etymology of this pasta is fascinating: ‘strozzapreti’ literally translates as ‘strangle-priest’ or, rendered less clumsily, ‘priest-choker’! There are numerous explanations as to how the pasta got this rather alarming anti-clerical sounding name.

The least dramatic is that the chef is ‘choking’ the pasta dough by the actions required to make it. Much juicier and more thrilling are these more complex or comedic explanations: that this was a form of pasta cooked by peasants in part payment of church rents, or best of all, that the clergy are so gluttonous that they stuff down this delicious pasta so quickly they choke themselves!

On that last count, who can blame them? (I’m sure they would have also loved this pasta salad with broccoli and bacon. Different veggies, but still a great flavour!)

Ingredients:

  • 30g butter
  •  200g strozzapretti pasta (or similar, e.g. fusilli)
  • 100g bacon (uncooked)
  •  1/2  medium-sized onion, finely chopped.
  •  1 large ripe avocado, diced.
  •  Several cloves of cloves of garlic (according to taste), peeled, crushed against the blade of a knife, and coarsely chopped.
  •  150ml cream*
  •  100g grated Parmesan cheese.
  •  Salt and pepper.
  •  Optional tablespoon or two of olive oil for the pasta

* You can use either single or double cream, depending how rich and creamy you want it to be; remember though that avocados have both these qualities to begin with!

Method:

1 – Start your water for the pasta. In a frying pan, melt one-third of the butter and fry the bacon till it’s taken on a rich dark tone, as the sugars begin to caramelize, releasing those fabulous aromas and flavours (it was my wife frying bacon in the mornings that ended my experiment with vegetarianism!). Ideally you want the bacon to have some crunch in this dish.

2 – By the time the bacon’s starting to crisp a little, the water should be boiling, so drop your pasta into the pan, cover and reduce to a low medium heat to cook the pasta. Add half of the remaining butter and fry the onion until golden. Now add what’s left of the butter and drop in the garlic. Lower the heat a little and cook gently for a couple of minutes.

3 – Making sure the heat is now very low, pour in the cream and the stir the mixture to combine with any remaining butter. When the mix is a silky smooth delight, add the chopped avocado and grated Parmesan, gently stirring and allowing all the ingredients and flavours to combine for a couple more minutes. Remove from the heat and keep warm.

4 – Drain the pasta and serve into generous deep plates or bowls, before spooning over your richly delicious bacon and avocado mix. Grate a little more Parmesan over it all, and perhaps a little freshly ground pepper, and dive in!

Serves: 2

Total time: 35-40 minutes (15 minutes preparation; 25 minutes cooking)

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About Gianluca Dievole

My Badge: Assistant

About

Buon' giorno! Welcome to my Italian food blog. I am Italian, and proud of it! Italy has so much going for it: with one foot quite literally in the beautiful Mediterranean, my country’s climate and location give us an amazing cornucopia of ingredients, which is why our culture is steeped in a hearty romantic culinary tradition. My wife and I love our food, so all my recipes are designed for two. If you're cooking for an average sized modern family - perhaps not the traditional extended Italian family - just double the quantities.