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Mar 20, 2008 03:44 PM

Pasta experiment

Trying my hand at a pasta dish today which will include toasted panko, grated pecorino, butter, pancetta, and perhaps some walnuts.

I've never added breadcrumbs to pasta, because, frankly, bread on pasta always sounded a bit like starch overkill to me. But it all just sounds too good to pass on, so if anyone has some special hints they would be greatly appreciate it

I was going to first get the pancetta all crispy and thus have the fat rendered.... but should I toast the panko in the pancetta fat or in butter? Also, can I toast the panko in a skillet as opposed to in the oven?

I want to end up with a not too saucy (I don't want to go crazy on the butter), but also not too dry sauce. Was going to mix melted butter with the grated cheese....toss with the pasta, and then add the toasted panko and walnuts.


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  1. Sounds like Food Sc lab to me! I would render the pancetta, toast the panko in rendered fat in the skillet along with the walnuts. Only add butter if there is not enough rendered fat. Toss this with the pasta. Grate cheese on top of pasta. If you think it is too dry, add some of the pasta water. But I like dry.

    1. My Mom used to toast breadcrumbs and toss with spaghetti all the time when I was growing up. Of course, back then, it was supposed to be a simple dish. She would use regular italian bread crumbs (she always grated her own...never bought them) and toast them in a skillet with olive oil.

      Since you'll already have the rendered fat from the pancetta, I would absolutely use that. If you have to, you could drizzle olive oil over the pasta if it turns out too dry. But adding the pasta water sounds right also. I'd probably add garlic to the pancetta while its cooking though.

      1 Reply
      1. re: njtransplant

        Garlic towards the end or it will burn!

        All of this sounds fab, I think I would just add olive oil to the pasta at the end to add some flavor and moisture.

      2. I think this dish is screaming for some white wine. Try deglazing pan after rending the pancetta. This will also cut down on the butter.I would brown the panko under the broiler after dish is complete. Also keep in mind that the bread crumbs will absorb liqiud if you think it's too saucy.

        1. In some provences of Italy there is a pasta dish which uses bread crumbs to represent the sawdust that might have accumulated in St. Joseph's carpenter shop. His feast day is March 19. One of the best recipes I've found is here on this blog....

          It's called, Pasta n'casciata. In other words a pasticcio... which means a bunch of stuff thrown together and tasting fabulous....

          1 Reply
          1. re: Gio

            Omigosh, did that look good! I have bookmarked that.

          2. I ended up rendering the pancetta and sautéing the onions in the fat. I dabbed the pancetta fat off, added a nice amount of butter and toasted the panko & the chopped walnuts. Then added the crispy pancetta and the onions. Threw in the grated cheese and tossed with the pasta. Turnd out pretty dry, but rather tasty. Next time: more pancetta, some fresh parsley perhaps, and more cheese.

            5 Replies
            1. re: linguafood

              I had pasta tonight as well. I browned some prosciutto with green peppercorns and finely diced tomato and some finely diced red onion. Added some Italian parsley leaves, tossed in the pasta and a bit of goat cheese. The goat cheese added some creaminess. It was nice :)

              1. re: sarah galvin

                I made a pasta dish last night as well! The Korean dish Jap Chae which is mixed chopped vegetables with noodles only I used vermicelli instead. It was quite tasty, IIDSSMS. After working with the Fuchsia Dunlop recipes for the better part of three weeks I'm fearless. LOL

                1. re: Gio

                  And I'll be making two pasta dishes again tomorrow for my man's b-day/poker night: a Greek-inspired one w/farfalle, feta, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, pinenuts, and fresh mint, and a spicy sesame-peanut butter noodles concoction with red peppers.

                  1. re: linguafood

                    Uuuuuuuu..... the spicy-sesame etc. concoction sounds wonderful. I Love spicy peanut butter sauce! Isn't there a cookbook with 1000+ ways to cook pasta? If not, there ought to be. You could do it.....

                    1. re: Gio

                      This one happens to be a riff on a Chinese friend's recipe....

                      But I can highly recommend The Complete Book of Pasta and Noodles, if only for inspiration -- which is mainly how I use cookbooks anyway.

                      I do plan on making more pasta dishes in general. Just gotta keep those portions "sensible."