A quick, tasty pasta dish is life saving. The possibilities are endless but, in truth, I like my pasta to be uncomplicated and easy to make. A few ingredients thrown together resulting in that homely warmth we all know and love. Conchiglioni has become one of my favourite pasta shapes, I like the way it catches the sauce in it's shell. For some reason I prefer giant pasta's like the large tubes of paccheri or the thick ribbons of pappardelle. It may because I'm greedy but who cares, they are delicious and eye catching! If you don't like them, simply substitute for one of the mini alternatives...I won't hold it against you!
I'm using guanciale, a cured meat similar very to the better known pancetta. The is name derived from the the Italian word for cheek 'guancia', as this is where the cut is prepared from. The flavour of this particular meat is slightly stronger than pancetta but the texture more delicate, making it fantastic for pasta dishes. My guanciale is from a wonderful independent company called Perinelli Salami , they hand make all of their products, ranging from venison and juniper salami to bresaola and coppa. Not only are these great items to stock your cupboard with, they also make fantastic, unique, gifts (Christmas is coming up...hint hint!).
Carbonara would be the obvious pasta dish to pair with this special guanciale, but I'm going to do something slightly fresher with a tomato sauce and peas. Remember you can always substitute the guanciale for pancetta or even smoked bacon if you already have this in the house. This is a satisfying, quick and easy weeknight supper which locks in those important colourful veggies we all need on these winter nights.
1 can chopped tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp dried thyme
Chilli flakes, to taste
100g guanciale, thinly sliced (you can also use pancetta or smoked bacon)
1 medium sized red onion, sliced
200g conchiglioni, or similar
150g peas, defrosted
50ml white wine
50ml cream, optional
Parmesan, grated to serve
Start by making a very simple tomato sauce for pasta. In medium sized sauce pan heat a good glug of olive oil, chopped tomatoes, fill about a quarter of the empty tin with water and add that too, garlic, a pinch of salt, and chilli flakes. I used about a teaspoon to give the dish some warmth. Bring to the boil and then simmer uncovered, for around 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until reduced.
Meanwhile, put a large sauce pan of salted water on the hob to boil, this is for the pasta.
Drizzle a little olive oil into a large frying pan over a medium/low heat. Add the guanciale and onion, and cook very slowly, stirring often, until beautifully golden and crisp.
As soon as the water is boiling, throw in the pasta to cook according to the packet instructions, probably between 15-17 minutes.
When the pasta is around 5 minutes away from being ready, pour the white wine into the guanciale pan to deglaze, scrapping up all those sticky bits which are full of flavour. Now add the peas and stir. Throw in the tomato sauce, adding a drizzle of cream to richen it up, stir to combine all the elements. Taste for seasoning.
Drain the pasta quickly and not thoroughly, don't worry that some pasta water will remain in the shells, add to the sauce. Stir to coat the pasta.
Serve immediately with plenty of parmesan.