Light at Five [Fiorentini with Guanciale, Tomato and Spicy Pickled Peppers]

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It’s still light outside the house right now, at 5:40 p.m. Holy crap I think we’re going to make it, you guys.

I’m not so big on winter and have so many things to look forward to this spring. There are trips to the farm, fresh produce, Arthur the (not so baby) poodle’s first birthday and my grandma and grandpa’s 65th wedding anniversary on May 4.

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Sixty-five years. And they have been a couple for 70 years. Sixty-five years ago grandma had a bouquet of daylilies.

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Fiorentini with Guanciale, Tomato and Spicy Pickled Peppers
*from The Mozza Cookbook by Nancy Silverton

For the passata di pomodoro:

2 28 ounce cans whole peeled plum tomatoes
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sugar
1 scant tablespoon kosher salt
1 heaping teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Pass the tomatoes through a food mill to crush.

Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat until the oil is almost smoking and slides easily in the pan, 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the tomatoes.  Stir in the sugar, salt and pepper and cook until the sauce thickens slightly, about 30 minutes.

Refrigerate for up to several days or freeze for up to several months.

For the pasta and assembly:

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
5 oz guanciale, cut into small dice
8 garlic cloves
2 cups passata di pomodoro
1 tsp sugar
12 large fresh basil leaves
12 oz fiorentini, or another artisanal pasta shape
1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh italian parsley leaves
1/2 cup spicy pickled peppers, seeded and thinly sliced
1/4 cup finishing-quality extra-virgin olive oil
wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano, for grating

Fill a large pot with 6 quarts of water. Add 6 tablespoons of kosher salt and bring the water to a boil over high heat.

Combine the olive oil and the guanciale in a large saute pan and cook over medium heat until the guanciale is golden brown and crisp, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, reduce the heat to medium and cook for about 1 minute, until the garlic is light brown and fragrant, stirring constantly to prevent it from burning. Add the passata di pomodoro, sugar and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and cook for about 1 minute, to dissolve the sugar and warm the sauce. Turn off the heat and add the basil while you cook the pasta.

Drop the pasta into the boiling water, stir to prevent it from sticking together, partially cover the pot so the water returns to a boil quickly and continues boiling and cook the pasta until it’s al dente.

About 1 minute before the pasta is done, place the sauce over high heat. Drain the pasta using a colander in the sink, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water. Add pasta to sauce. Cook for two minutes, stirring to stain the pasta with the sauce, adding some of the reserved cooking water if the pasta is dry and sticky instead of slippery and glistening.

Turn off the heat and stir in the parsley and peppers. Add the finishing-quality olive oil, stirring vigorously and shaking the pan to emulsify the sauce.

Pile the pasta in the centre of four plates, spooning any remaining sauce over the pasta. Use a microplane to grate a fine layer of Parmigiano-Reggiano over each plate.

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