Monday, January 28, 2013

Linguine with Pancetta, Spinach and Shallots

Remember Friday when I was just too worn out to do more than post a very basic recipe?  Well, turns out I was getting sick.  My head, eyes and body hurt, not to mention my lungs felt like a huge weight had been placed on them.  I spent the weekend laying around and sleeping when I could.  I didn't even do any real cooking.  And, this morning I was still feeling under the weather but I drug myself to work anyway.  I had too much to do, to even think about staying home - I am going to be out of town the next 2 days, in meetings, so I had to suck it up.  Anyway, the last thing I was thinking about was what I was going to make for dinner tonight.  But somewhere in the late afternoon, I started to feel a little better and, to my surprise, this recipe started to take shape in my mind.

I was in the mood for pasta, but didn't want anything too heavy.  I mentally ran through what I had on hand in my pantry and freezer and decided that I wanted linguine with spinach.  Initially, I thought about using frozen spinach, but couldn't decide what else I wanted to go with it.  Then, out of the blue, it hit me - pancetta!  What goes great with spinach?  Pancetta!  Well, if I was going to splurge a little on the pancetta, I certainly wasn't going to use frozen spinach.  Like an imaginary whirlwind in my head, it all came together:  linguine, baby spinach, garlic slivers, pancetta and freshly grated Parmesan.  I couldn't wait to go to the grocery store to grab the pancetta and baby spinach, so I could hurry home and get it started.  While I was in the produce department, my eyes wandered past the garlic bulbs and landed upon a basket of beautiful shallots.  Hey, hey, hey!  Those would be go nicely, thank you very much.

I scurried home and commenced to chopping, cooking and boiling.  At the risk of sounding conceited, this was one of those times that everything just come together perfectly.  Everything was spot on.  All the flavors were in harmony.  I didn't even find myself critiquing it as we ate, making changes to the recipe, as is the case many times.  It's one of those dishes that proves you don't need a heavy sauce or a ton of seasonings to make something worthwhile.  It's light on ingredients but packs a wallop in flavor. 

Here's your Cast of Characters.

1/2 Lb. pancetta (Don't be tempted to substitute bacon!)
1/2 Bag baby spinach
1 Large shallot
5 Cloves garlic
1/3 Cup olive oil
1 Teaspoon, each, freshly ground pepper, kosher salt and McCormick Perfect Pinch Tuscan seasoning blend
1 Lb. linguine
1/2 Cup freshly shredded Parmesan

In a large saute pan, warm olive oil on medium-low. 

Pancetta should be cut into 1/2" thick slices from the deli.

Chop pancetta into bite-size pieces and throw into the pan, turning heat up to medium.

Cut shallot into thin wedges, and add to the pancetta.  Stir frequently to keep from burning.

Peel the garlic and slice into thin slivers before adding to the pan.

Continue stirring until the pancetta starts to crisp a little and the garlic is golden.

Once they reach this stage, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook linguine 6 - 7 minutes, or until al dente.  Continue crisping pancetta until garlic is brown.

Turn to low.  When there is 2 minutes left on the pasta, add the spinach and seasonings to the saute pan.  Stir well and frequently.

Drain pasta and add to the pancetta and spinach.  Toss well.

Add Parmesan cheese, and continue to toss until the cheese is mixed in very well.

Serve immediately while pasta is piping hot.