Don’t officially “break up” with pasta because of sweeping fad diets; just add vegetables.
Oh, pasta. You’ve gotten such a bad rap lately. First, it was Atkins, and now this paleo thing has you going stale in the back of people’s pantries once again. Never worry; this, too, shall pass.
I’ve never prescribed (at least not for long) to a specific fad diet. I do, however, often follow the style of the times in other ways. Low carb? Never! We are “less carb.” As a result, I am just as guilty of having stale pasta in my pantry, though not because I’ve sworn it off. Instead, I’ve taken more of an “if you’re gonna do it, do it right and do it well” approach. In other words, when we do make pasta (probably once a month-ish), I buy fresh pasta. I use fresh ingredients. I never (NEVER) buy a jar of sauce. And, whatever cheese is involved isn’t pre-shredded, it’s always the real deal.
This is a special pasta indeed, but don’t be fooled into thinking that making pasta “special” means it takes a lot of time. Sure, this recipe takes slightly longer than it does to boil dry pasta and reheat jar sauce. It doesn’t, however, take much longer than about a half an hour.
Chop and cook the veggies as you boil the pasta (set a timer so you don’t overcook the pasta – it will cook again in the oven, mind you). Add the tomatoes, etc. Then you mix it all together, pop it in the oven until the mozzarella melts and there you have an awesome dinner in no time at all.
In this recipe, I actually went with some smoked hog ham in place of Italian sausage or meatballs. You could also use pancetta. With smoked hog, instead of a super cured flavor, you get this lovely smokiness that adds to the whole dish. Marry that with the fact that the meat has been twice crisped (once in the pan, once in the oven), and every bite is delightful. I threw some broccoli into my pasta to help bulk it up with some vegetables. Now look at the pictures. LOOK AT THEM! Does it look so bad for you?
Skillet Pasta with Smoked Hog Ham
- 1lb linguine
- 1/2lb smoked hog ham (roughly chopped)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1 can crushed tomates (14 oz)
- 12oz fresh mozzarella (either smaller balls torn in half, or a larger ball chopped into chunks)
- 1/2 red onion (sliced)
- 2 cups broccoli florets (in bite sized pieces)
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
- crushed red pepper (to taste)
|Preheat the oven to 350. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook until al dente (about 3 minutes fresh pasta, 6-8 minutes dry pasta) and drain. Reserve about 1/2 cup of the pasta water.
|Heat an oven-safe sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the smoked hog, letting the fat render out. Once it begins to sear and crisp up, add the olive oil and red onions and toss, cooking until the onions begin to wilt. Add the broccoli and lightly toss until they start to cook (turn bright green). Then add the minced garlic, tomato sauce, half the basil, pasta and a good splash of that pasta water and toss until everything is combined. Top with cheese and bake until the cheese is melted and starting to bubble, about 10-15 minutes. Garnish with the rest of the fresh basil, serve warm.
Non-game substitution: Go for pancetta or any kind of leftover smoked chicken or brisket you have laying around.
Vegetarian substitution: This recipe is delicious even without the meat in it.