Sunday, June 2, 2013

Heaven on a Plate - Pasta with Oven Dried Tomatoes, Pancetta & Poached Egg

Today's dinner revolves around two of my most favorite ingredients - Oven Dried Tomatoes and Poached Eggs. 

Pasta with Oven Dried Tomatoes, Pancetta & Poached Egg (+ Zucchini in this version)

Oven Dried Tomatoes are amazingly flavorful and easy to make. Their cooking technique is adaptable to any type or size Tomato that strikes your fancy. Low heat slowly concentrates the Tomato flavor over the course of an hour or two, so all you really need to get these just perfect is some time to wait around as your oven does all the work. The results are wonderful tossed into Pasta as we will do today, or as a Pizza Topping, perhaps even as an addition to Crostini Hors D'oeuvres. Use your imagination. 

Best of all, Oven Drying is utterly foolproof. See how easy it is below ~

*Oven Dried Tomatoes
2 -4 Servings depending on use 
1 Lb or more medium or large Tomatoes of your choice, for this recipe Plum or Campari would work best but all tomatoes work - just slice them to a uniform size.
Tomatoes Ready to Cook, Photo: NK
Kosher Salt
Black Pepper
Olive Oil for drizzling
Dried Oregano, optional

1. Preheat oven to 250. 

2. Slice Tomatoes to about 1/4 or 1/3 inch thick. Just be sure to keep them uniformly thick. *If using Cherry or Grape Tomatoes, slice them in half. 

3. Place Tomatoes on a wire rack over a baking sheet with sides.

4. Drizzle with Olive Oil and top with Salt, Black Pepper, and optional Oregano.
Cook for 1.5 to 2.5 hours until somewhat dried and wrinkled. It's a good idea to check them at around the 90 minute mark. Smaller Tomatoes should be done by then, larger will take longer.

Can be stored in an air-tight container in the fridge for 3-5 days. They will lose some of their dryness but will still taste delicious. 

Wonderful tossed into pastas, as a pizza topping, delicious on their own, or even as a crostini or sandwich topping. Can be stored in an air-tight container in the fridge for 3-5 days. They will lose some of their dryness but will still taste delicious. 

Oven Dried Grape and Campari Tomatoes, Photo: NK
Now we'll use our flavor-packed Tomatoes to create a totally simple, knockout pasta dish that will impress even your toughest critics. How did this recipe come about? Well, a few years ago, my husband and I dined at a restaurant nearby our house where they served a version of today's dish. It was perhaps the first time I'd knowingly eaten Oven Dried Tomatoes and I found them and the whole dish absolutely delicious. The sweetness of the Tomatoes coupled with salty Pancetta and a heavenly runny Poached Egg (which I'm always a sucker for) was a majorly winning combo. I just knew I'd have to make this dish at home. 

The below recipe is a riff off a Giada Di Laurentiis Tomato and Pancetta Pasta recipe.  To make it my own, I added more fresh herbs and Oven Dried, rather than canned Tomatoes. Giada didn't call for a Poached Egg topping  but I have a feeling she'd approve. I hope you enjoy this restaurant-quality yet doable recipe. If you are looking to make your loved ones or guests swoon, this is the way to go!

Spaghetti with Oven Dried Tomatoes, Pancetta and Poached Egg 
Inspired by Giada Di Laurentiis
Serves 4

1 Recipe Oven Dried Tomatoes*
1 Pound Spaghetti
6 Ounces thick cut Pancetta or good quality thick Bacon, diced
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 large Cloves of Garlic, minced
1 Maui or Vidalia Onion, or other white/yellow Onion, diced
6 Sprigs Fresh Thyme (optional)
1/4 teaspoon or more to taste Crushed Red Pepper
1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
2 Large Pinches of Salt + more
Freshly grated Parmesan, optional, for serving

1. Set a large pot of well salted water to boil for the Pasta. Add the pasta to to the pot about 15 minutes before you think the rest of the dish will be ready is ready. 

2. Meanwhile, In a separate large skillet, add the Olive Oil and Chopped Pancetta. Cook over medium heat for about 6 minutes stirring occasionally until golden brown. 

3. Add the Onion to the skillet and sauté until tender for about 4-6 minutes. 

4. Add pinches of Salt. Toss in the whole Sprigs of Thyme, Garlic, and Crushed Red Pepper. Saute for 1-2 minutes stirring constantly so Garlic does not burn. Finally, add the Oven Dried Tomatoes to the skillet and let cook for another 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until heated through. Remove and discard Thyme Sprigs. 

5. In a third small saute pan with high sides, prepare to poach your eggs. You'll do this at the end of the recipe, after plating the pasta and sauce, but it's good to have everything set up and ready. Make sure the pan is filled halfway with water and a drop of Vinegar to help the Eggs come together. When you are ready to poach, you'll need water to be at a gentle boil and be sure to have a large slotted spoon handy. 

6.When Pasta water has come to a boil, add the Spaghetti and cook according to package instructions. Go for al dente especially because you will cook the pasta an additional 2 minutes when you add it to the sauce. Reserve a 1/4 cup or so of pasta water, just in case. When Pasta is done, drain and add it to the skillet with the Pancetta and Tomatoes. Turn the flame to low and toss Pasta and Sauce a minute or so until heated through and fully incorporated. Add pasta water and stir if you want the "sauce to be thicker or the past looser. Plate Pasta portions and create a little nest at the top of each for the Egg.

7. Time to poach two Eggs! 

When your poaching is done (whites will be opaque), remove eggs very carefully with a slotted spoon and place one Egg atop each plate of Pasta. Note that the Egg has a better chance of staying intact if you carve out that little nest we talked about. 

8. Sprinkle with Black Pepper, a little more salt,  and optionally garnish with something pretty and green, like a sprig of Thyme. Cut into the Egg quickly and give the pasta a stir so all the delicious runny Yolk. Nothing better!! If you're looking for more flavor, additional Crushed Red Pepper and freshly grated Parmesan Cheese are welcome additions. Enjoy! 

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