Small Price, Big Flavors: Penne with Ricotta and Bacon


Ingredients -/+ (per person):

100 grams of penne pasta
120 grams of ricotta, cow or sheep
50 grams of pig cheek or bacon
30 grams of grated ages cheese, a mix of parmesan and pecorino romano or any other you like

It’s late. It’s been a fairly busy day, your girl friend will be getting back about 20 minutes or so after you will, tired and a little stressed at the ongoings of the day. It’s your turn to cook and you really, really don’t feel like prepping a meal. What’s worse: you’re hungry, even ravenous. You want massive, mouth-filling, gut-fulfilling fair in a hurry. Pizza? Burgers? The deli on the corner? Maybe, even though they all sound boring.  

 Ok, it isn’t that they actually sound boring. It’s just that your taste buds are looking for something hardy and flavorful. And sound can have a flavor, or vice versa. Pizza: you’re really not in the mood for melted cheese and toppings, that familiar odor of cooked canned tomato, heated cardboard and animal fat mixed with dried herbs. Burgers: or more grilled, too-thin, plain beef patties on wimpy bread. The deli: the deli has more to offer but a sandwich for dinner – though sometimes a pleasurable change of pace – tonight would be strikingly inadequate. So you might want to try an old stand by, something you don’t make that often and so forget just how satisfying it is, kind of like having a burger, pizza and deli sandwich all at the same time.      

Plop some water in the pot as soon as you get in, salt it, then take off your coat, change into a more comfortable pair of shoes, undo your tie if you have one on, use the bathroom if you need to but please do give your hands a good washing before heading back into the kitchen. Now, take out that prosciutto you have leftover in the fridge or freezer. It can be one nice, thick slice but even if it’s been thin-sliced it’ll work just fine. If the meat is in the former condition, slice away thin ribbons and then in turn slice those ribbons into small squares. If it’s the later, stop once you’ve chopped that, instead, into thin ribbons. By now the water is boiling, so shove in some penne, the smooth kind would work better here but any short pasta will do (dry, not egg pasta).      

You’re hungry, so realistically put in at least 100 grams per person, 200+ for the two of you. Now, take out the leftover ricotta, sheep milk if you have it but the cow milk kind will do as well. The first is more flavorful but less fatty, so make sure that once you’ve put it in a bowl and separated it into several chunks, 100-150 grams per person, take a small cup of boiling salt water from the pasta pot, pour it into the same bowl and mix until you get a sort of really thick paste. If instead it’s the cow kind, grate a tad of nutmeg into the cheese, then add some water but not as much. Now put the prosciutto ribbons or squares into a pan on medium-low heat and let them fry up slowly until good and crispy. You can even get a little stupid and deglaze after a bit with some cognac, but no need to. Anyway.

   Once the pasta is ready, don’t drain it well. Plunk it fairly wet into the pan and toss a few seconds with the crispy meat, add some other grated cheese – that is, parmesan – if you must but again there’s no need. Once the noodles are well-flavored transfer them into the bowl with the ricotta paste and mix the whole well. Add a good dose of pepper if it’s to you liking. Your girlfriend will walk through the door, take one wiff and thank Manitu that you’ve made a great smelling, great tasting, fully satisfying dinner, plus one that won’t rest in your stomach like, well, a double-stuffed with sausage or two all beef patties with special sauce. Tomorrow you can have a a corned beef on rye…

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