Pancetta, Asparagus and Goat Cheese Orecchiette
Chopped pancetta and little pine nuts nestle perfectly into the crevices of orecchiette, a small ear-shaped pasta. Cut vibrant asparagus on the diagonal for a simple way to elevate the appearance of this dish. Enveloped in the creamy mixture of goat cheese and Parmesan, this dish is as delicious as it is easy.
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 lb. (500 g) asparagus, ends trimmed, spears cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) pieces
- 5 oz. (155 g) pancetta, chopped
- 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
- 12 oz. (375 g) orecchiette
- 6 Tbs. (3 fl. oz./90 ml) olive oil
- 1/4 cup (1 oz./30 g) grated Parmesan cheese
- 3 oz. (90 g) goat cheese, at room temperature, cut or broken into 1-inch (2.5-cm) pieces
- 2 Tbs. pine nuts, toasted
Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the asparagus and cook just until barely fork-tender, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the asparagus to a plate and set aside. Return the water to a boil.
In a fry pan over medium-high heat, cook the pancetta, stirring occasionally, until crisp and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to paper towels to drain. Do not wipe the pan clean. Add the onion to the fat in the pan and season with salt and pepper. Sauté until lightly browned and soft, about 5 minutes.
Add the orecchiette to the boiling water and cook according to the package instructions. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) of the cooking water, and set aside.
Add the olive oil to the pan and stir in the asparagus, pancetta and reserved pasta water. Add the orecchiette and stir to mix well. Cook until the sauce in the pan thickens just a bit, about 2 minutes. Stir in the Parmesan, goat cheese and pine nuts. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Pasta Night, by Kate McMillan (Weldon Owen, 2014)