Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Saffron Pasta with Tomato Sauce

I learned a very fun, very cool, very easy new trick with this recipe, that made both my resident guinea pig and I delightfully happy. As broke as I am, I tend to be very wary of using saffron, but especially in ways that I'm not 100% positive will pay off, but this particular use is completely worth it: putting a pinch of saffron directly in the boiling pasta water, and cooking the sauce separately.

Tomato sauce and saffron are a staple of Spanish cuisine, but I'd always combined the two into one sauce. Having saffron pasta with tomato sauce: ingenious. Thank you, Epicurious.

The recipe calls for pork, for which I substituted a much healthier edamame. I also used cheese ravioli instead of adding cheese on top (making this a cheese-less recipe would also work really well), and the ravioli came out golden and beautiful. I also added a handful of peas to the sauce, because....I just love them. And adding veggies to the sauce itself saves me having to make a side dish.

I also added 2 cloves of minced garlic to the sauce. The recipe doesn't call for any, but the saffron + tomato + garlic combination is too good to pass up. Adding no more than two took some restraining, but I didn't want to overwhelm the saffron. And, oh man, it was a good decision. The pasta and the sauce together was so much fun to eat. This falls perfectly in the category of easy to make, quick food (all told, took 20 minutes), that is completely divine.

Recipe:

ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 ounces pancetta or bacon, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 pound ground pork
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes with added puree
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage

12 ounces gnocchi-shaped pasta, orecchiette (little ear-shaped pasta), or medium pasta shells
1 1/2 teaspoons saffron threads, crumbled
1 cup freshly grated pecorino Sardo or pecorino Romano cheese (about 3 ounces)

preparation

Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add pancetta; sauté until fat is rendered, about 3 minutes. Add onion and parsley and sauté until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add ground pork and sauté until brown, breaking up with back of fork, about 8 minutes. Stir in crushed tomatoes, bay leaves, and sage. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until sauce thickens and flavors blend, stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Chill uncovered 1 hour. Then cover and keep chilled. Rewarm over low heat.)

Meanwhile, bring large pot of salted water to boil. Add pasta and saffron and cook until pasta is just tender but still firm to bite. Drain. Return pasta to pot. Add sauce and 1/2 cup cheese and toss to blend. Transfer to bowl. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese and serve.

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