Last week, on a business lunch, I had the pleasure of dining in one of my favorite midtown eateries, Il Gattopardo. Simply put, their pasta dishes are utter perfection and I found myself savoring every bite (I’m been told that I’m the quickest eater going) of the cracked pepper rigatoni with pancetta. Truth be told, every dish can be improved upon with cured bacon fat. Pancetta on a Snickers bar? Absolutely. Pancetta on flapjacks? Naturally. Pancetta-topped ice-cream? You betcha. Frequently, I use the salt-cured bacon as a base for soups, and as a flavoring agent in most of my chicken and pasta dishes. The heady saltiness of the pecorino cheese & bacon juxtaposed against the bite of cracked peppercorns was a gastronomic delight, and I left the restaurant fully aware that I’ve secured a favorite haunt. And the best part? My lunch was a simple dish that could be easily replicated by the home cook (how rare!!).
After a tough week which included an emergency room visit and a decision to pare down my project workload, I went back to basics. To what is familiar and comforting: cooking in the kitchen. This weekend, it was all about the noodle. Tossing together al dente pasta (1 1/2 cup uncooked pasta), cracked pepper (1/2 tbsp), pecorino romano cheese (3 tbsp) and small diced chunks of sautÃ©ed pork (1/4 cup) – Saturday evening dinner was easy breezy. In preparation for dinner for two with a sweet friend, I’ve prepared the fan favorite: butternut squash lasagna replete with crushed amaretti cookies, to be served with an arugula salad with shallot vinaigrette & loaves of french bread and creamed butter. Because it’s no fun pulling your hair out over dishes you can’t easily prepare in advance.