Tuesday Dinner: Tagliatelle with Pancetta and Mozzarella

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The cooler air and shorter days mean the return of sauces, soups and pastas. I hold out hope that I can get one or two more grilling days in this fall, but that remains to be seen. I’m not one of those people who will grill year round. I’m lacking a deck or patio door allowing me easy entry and exit from my house. We keep our grill in our detached garage, meaning that I have a 100 or 150 foot walk from my house to the garage. Not going to happen.

So, consider this recipe as part of the transition in seasons.  What caught my eye in this dish from Vikalinka was the use of fresh mozzarella in the sauce. I was hoping that it would melt more than it did, but the softened cheese added a lot of great flavor to what might be an otherwise ordinary pasta dish.

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WHAT WORKED: Passata. I’ve never used this before and I’m not sure why. If you’ve never used it, it’s a smooth, thicker tomato sauce. Think of it as a thin tomato paste or thick tomato sauce. No seeds. No chunks. Just silky smooth red goodness.

WHAT DIDN’T: I probably should have incorporated the mozzarella sooner and I have changed my adaptation thusly.

WHAT DID THE WIFE SAY: I honestly don’t remember. And not because I don’t listen to what she says. Okay, so I don’t always listen to what she says, but in this case I have no idea what she thought about it. But, she ate it and took the leftovers for lunch so I’m guessing she approved.

WILL IT MAKE ANOTHER APPEARANCE: Yes. It’s not a cheap dish to make ($4 per 8 oz. of pasta, $4 in pancetta, $4 in fresh mozzarella, $4 in passata…) but it is a fairly elegant, easy-to-make pasta dish.

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Tagliatelle with Pancetta and Mozzarella
Adapted heavily from the original at Vikalinka

  • 16 oz. tagliatelle or other long or nested egg pasta
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup pancetta, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • A pinch of crushed red pepper
  • 24 oz. passata
  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella
  • Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

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Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Salt liberally and cook pasta to 1 minute less than the package recommendation (NOTE: Wegmans Italian Classics tagliatelle cooks to al dente between 5 and 7 minutes. I cooked it just shy of 5 minutes.)

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In the meantime, place a large saucepan over medium heat and add the pancetta. Cook until the fat is rendered and the meat is crisp. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Stir into the oil to coat and cook one minute. Add the tomatoes, bring to a boil, and reduce heat.

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Just before the pasta is done cooking, tear pieces from the mozzarella ball and drop into the sauce gently as to not splatter. Stir in and cook for 1-2 minutes or until it begins to melt.

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Drain the pasta and transfer immediately to the sauce pan. Use a pasta fork to mix, then transfer to a serving bowl and mix further until all of the pasta is coated with sauce. Serve with grated cheese.

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