A friend recently commented on a photo I put up on my Facebook Wall of a simple weeknight dinner, “I need to learn more simple weeknight style dishes. Any you willing to share?” I realized that (back before I knew this friend) I used to post lots of weeknight cooking photos to Facebook. (That was the origin of this blog!) But now that I want my photos to look all purty, I don’t do that as much. I’ve since resolved to go back to posting more simple weeknight dinners, since that’s more useful than outrageous desserts. After all, one of the main reasons I started this blog was because friends kept asking for recipes for the things I posted photos of and I thought it would be easier if I had a central place for those. Time to return to that mission. Or at least attend to it more often.
So here’s a tried-and-true Sugar + Shake favorite: Pancetta, Garlic and Tomato Pasta with Poached Egg. I’ve been making this for so long that I can’t even remember where I swiped the idea from. (After consulting my old Facebook Food Foto albums, it appears I got the idea from Downtown at HiSAM, a restaurant that no longer exists.) My first photo of this is just atrocious. I can’t believe people used to look at my photos and think that the food looked good! I must have some really nice friends.
Pancetta, Garlic and Tomato Pasta with Poached Egg
If you can chop and dice, fry meat, boil pasta and poach an egg, you’re set on this dish. It doesn’t take long to make, either, so it’s great for weeknights. I buy the fresh “ready in three minutes” pasta for this—it just tastes better. You can also substitute freely on your meat—pancetta’s the standard, but I’ve used bacon or you could use ham, roast pork or whatever salty meat you might have on hand. Yes, that even means SPAM® if you really wanted. The original dish had a bed of arugula, but sometimes I swap that out for some basil shreds, mixed greens or no green at all. I don’t measure at all on this dish; just go for it with whatever amounts please you.
- Pancetta (or your favorite salty meat that crisps up nicely), diced
- Garlic, minced
- Shallots (optional), minced
- Fresh pasta noodles (I use the “Ready in Three Minutes” stuff)
- Egg(s; one per person), poached
- Cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
- Arugula (or mixed greens)
- Basil (optional), shredded
- Olive oil
- Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper
Once all your ingredients are chopped and organized, this dish comes together pretty fast. Despite how long I’ve been making this, I still have yet to master the exact timing. Probably because I suck so hard at poaching eggs and this part completely throws off everything else for me. If done properly, you can time it so that your meat finishes cooking, followed shortly by the pasta and then the eggs.
Arrange the arugula at the bottom of a bowl or on a plate. You’ll be layering everything else on top of this. Set aside. Start heating two pots of water: One to boil the pasta noodles and one to poach the eggs. Crisp the pancetta in a frying pan. Once the pancetta is beginning to get nice and crispy, drain off some of the fat. Add the garlic and shallots (if using). The amount you cook these depends on just how intensely garlic-y you like things. We tend to like it a bit on the raw-er side, but that also tends to cause regret later. So, totally your call. Once your pancetta, garlic and shallots are crisped to your heart’s content, dump them into a paper towel-lined bowl (to soak up the grease). Set aside.
By now, your pots of water should be boiling. Add the pasta to the pasta pot and turn down the heat on the egg pan. When the egg pan stops boiling, you can poach the eggs. Use whatever method is most likely to result in nice-looking, properly poached eggs. I keep trying to do it the free-hand method, because I want to avoid doing more dishes, but I should really stop being an idiot and just use my egg-poaching pan. Yes, I have one.
Once the pasta is ready (al dente) mix it up with a little olive oil so the noodles don’t stick and portion it out atop the arugula. Top with some pancetta and garlic mix and tomatoes. Add the poached egg and top with more pancetta, garlic and tomatoes. Top with basil. Season with sea salt and fresh cracked pepper.