Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Onion Apricot Pasta

This is a fast, weeknight dish, but intense and satisfying. I had seen a recipe for Pasta with Rosemary and Onion-Orange Marmalade and although I liked the recipe as is, I of course wanted to change it up to suit my tastes. Like virtually all my pasta dishes (except stuffed and baked ones), the sauce takes either the amount of time or less as it does to bring a pot of water to boil and cook the pasta.

This makes enough for two people (as do most of my recipes).

Start, of course, by boiling water for pasta. The two short and stubby pastas I like to keep around are Campanelle and Farfalle. I like the Campanelle because its little "cone" picks up pieces of even chunky, non-tomato sauces, and the Farfalle is great because all sorts of sauces stick to its "wings". I use about 6 oz. dry of either for this dish. I also add my salt to the water when it comes to a boil because I believe the science behind the pitting of pots if you add the salt when the water is cold.

Now, the original recipe calls for pancetta, which I used the first time I made this. And last night I used a couple slices of bacon I had kicking around in the fridge, but drained off the fat almost entirely before adding olive oil to cook the onions in. Usually I make this recipe without the pancetta or bacon, this way it is more of a "pantry meal" and is also healthier (and makes it vegetarian).

So, if you want to, use a couple ounces of pancetta, cut it up into a large dice, and render it in a non-stick sauce pan over medium high heat until browned. Drain off fat, add a couple TBS of olive oil. If you aren't using the pancetta, just heat the olive oil until shimmering.

Next, add one onion, sliced 1/4" thick and a TBS of roughly chopped fresh oregano (or a tsp of dried). Cover pan and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until browned and tender. Add a couple TBS of apricot marmalade. I use Whole Foods 365 brand Apricot fruit spread. It has three ingredients: apricots, white grape juice, and pectin. I think if a sugar-based fruit spread was used, especially something with evil high-fructose corn-syrup, that would make this dish cloying and not savory.

After stirring marmalade into onion mixture, turn off heat. When water boils (if it hasn't already), add pasta. Cook to al dente. When pasta is close to done cooking, ladle about a 1/4 cup of water into the sauce pan, and stir around.

Drain pasta, put back into pot, toss with sauce and a few grinds of black pepper (not tons, just a touch). Serve with lots and lots of grated parmigiano or grana. If you didn't use bacon, a nice way to add a richness to the mouth feel and taste of the dish is with toasted pine nuts. Or add them even if you used bacon for a super-decadent dish.

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