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Cellentani with Zucchini and Pancetta

August 1, 2007


Sometimes I wonder if it’s really worthwhile posting these simple, basic pasta recipes. I mean, it’s not as though they require instruction, or any special knowledge. There are no interesting techniques involved. This is basically boiled pasta and cooked vegetables. Then I remember there are entire cookbooks devoted to simple pasta and I feel better about it. The thing I love about pasta is its simplicty–only a small handful of ingredients and basic cookery techniques and you end up with an absolutely delicious meal. Occasionally perhaps I feel the urge to get more involved with some elaborate stove side acrobatics, but mostly, I hunger for fresh, easy, basic preparations, that let the ingredients themselves do all the heavy lifting. And this was exactly that kind of dish.

I had originally planned to fancy it up just a little bit by finishing it off with a bit of heavy cream, just to coat everything and give it that “Yay this is fancy!” oomph. But alas, I opened up our container of cream to realize it had gone very, very bad. It seems things just aren’t lasting very long in our refrigerator these days. I turned the cold up in there and hopefully that will help. So what you have here is simple: cellentani with some sauteed pancetta, zucchini, fresh mozzarella, and basil. Summery and satisfying.

I finally managed to find pancetta that had been cubed, rather than sliced thinly like prosciutto. It seemed much better this way: little nuggets of salty meaty goodness interspersed amongst my vegetables. But you could probably recreate this just fine with sliced pancetta. I also found tiny little balls of fresh mozzarella, what the Trader Joe’s people called perlini. I’m not sure how many other people in this world call them perlini, but I’m a bit of a fan. Cubed smoked mozzarella would probably be a stellar substitution.

Pancetta and pasta

Cellentani with Zucchini and Pancetta

  • about 2 c. dried cellentani (or gemilli or penne)
  • 2 oz. cubed pancetta
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 medium zucchini, sliced
  • pepper
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 T. butter
  • a small handful of fresh basil, shredded
  • about 1/4 c. perlini, or cubed fresh mozzarella, or cubed smoked mozzarella

Set a large pot of salted water on to boil. If you can draw on your boiling water sixth sense, you can start cooking everything about a minute before the water comes to a rolling boil and it will all be done at the same time. I was quite proud of my boiling water sixth sense last night, it doesn’t always come through for me.

Once the water is boiling and your pasta is cooking, heat a large skillet over medium high heat. When it’s hot, add the pancetta and just a tiny smidge of olive oil,. Stir it all up a bit and let it cook for about a minute, releasing some of the fat from the pancetta and just starting to crisp up a little. Then add the garlic and zucchini, some pepper, and a bit of dried oregano. Stir everything up so the zucchini is nicely coated in olive oil and pancetta juices, then cover the skillet and let it cook for about three minutes. Uncover it and stir it up again, and lower the heat a bit, so it’s just gently cooking while your pasta finishes up.

Once the pasta is done cooking and is drained, add about 1/2 a tablespoon of butter to the pancetta and zucchini and stir it up, just to give it a nice buttery finish. Then add the pasta to the skillet and toss everything together. Serve it up and top each dish with some fresh mozzarella and shredded basil. You probably won’t need to add extra salt because the pancetta is quite salty on its own, but go to it if you feel the need. I’m a salt freak and I thought this was fine as is.

Yummy pasta

If you do want to go the fancier, creamier route, add about two tablespoons of heavy cream with the butter and turn up the heat a little, to let it bubble and thicken and nicely coat everything. Though, honestly, I didn’t miss the cream at all. This was a perfectly light summer dinner that didn’t require too much stove time, thank god because our kitchen was a pit of steamy hell last night on its own. This is the time of year that I start to yearn for sweater weather.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Gramma Jeri permalink
    August 19, 2007 7:04 pm

    Hi again; I do believe that I could do this one; I love pasta in about anything; you amaze me; besides reading, you “love” to cook.. I love tis segment of your life; keep it up. maybe someday you can come to our house and “fix” that special meal. anytime…Gramma

  2. February 5, 2010 4:12 am


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