When I’m without a solid idea for what to make for dinner, my mind drifts to pasta. I’ve probably said the same thing for countless other dishes in the ~3.5 years I’ve been posting here, but meh. This particular dish is lighter fare than my usual pasta hodgepodges, having a bit more of a springy/warm day feel about it.
The noodle: pappardelle since I wanted something with some bulk for the sauce to cling to. I added some bacon, sautéed onions, fennel, peas, and swiss chard, all tossed in an intriguing mint and balsamic vinaigrette for the sauce (here’s my original inspiration for the sauce).
The total dish is simply delicious. The flavor is not explosive, but it is quite full of more subtle, nuanced flavors. You have a mix of sweet, smoke, and licorice-like anise, with a light tanginess from the balsamic/dijon countered by a touch of brightness from both lemon and mint. A light white wine would make a good pairing–nothing too big or oaky.
- Mint and Balsamic Vinaigrette
- juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 leek
- 1 tsp dijon
- 4 Tbsp heavy cream
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1.5 tsp sugar
- 2 Tbsp mint leaves
- 2 Tbsp basil leaves
- big handful of fresh fennel fronds
- ~1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 7 strips bacon
- 1 lb paparadelle
- 1 spring onion
- 2 fennel bulbs
- 1 cup sugarsnap peas (or normal english peas)
- 5 garlic cloves
- small bunch swiss chard
- Garnish: fennel fronds & parmesan
Begin by cooking the bacon in a large pan. Once cooked through, remove the bacon from the pan and set aside on a paper towel lined plate.
Reserve all but a tablespoon or two’s worth of the bacon grease for another day.
Somewhat finely dice an onion, the fennel bulbs (be sure to remove and discard the woody center/base part, but save the leafy parts for the garnish later), and garlic cloves. Whatever kind of peas you’re using, you want loose peas, so if they’re in a pod, get them out. Dice the stalks from the swiss chard. Fold the chard leaves and chop into reasonable bite-sized-ish pieces.
Sauté the onion, chard stalks, and fennel in the bacon grease for 10 minutes over medium-high heat. Five minutes into this process, add the chard leaves to the pot. Five minutes later, add in the garlic and peas for two minutes further.
While everything else is cooking, boil the paparadelle for 10 minutes (or however long the package suggests).
Preparing the vinaigrette sauce is remarkably simple. Coarsely dice up the leek and sauté in a pan for 3 minutes or so. Then, add that along with all of the remaining vinaigrette ingredients into your food processor and purée this. Drizzle in extra olive oil if you want a thinner consistency–do whatever suits you. Set this aside for now.
At this point, everything is cooked through. Drop the heat on your pan to low (just to keep things warm), add the pasta to the pan with everything you were just cooking, and crumble in the cooked bacon. Mix in the sauce and toss to coat. Finely dice up some of the fennel fronds and mix these in as well at the last minute.
Plate a nice nest of pasta and top each serving generously with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Enjoy!