Tag Archives: Pancetta

Escarole and Egg Soup with Pesto and Crispy Pancetta

Soup: comfort in a bowl. In the winter, we eat soup at least once a day. Most of the time, we crave vegetable soups, full of chunky bits of goodness, with something to thicken the broth up: it can be a crushed potato, beans, or a roux. The soup below, thickened with beaten eggs, is a play on the spinach soup my husband grew up eating at home: his father Attilio cooked down spinach in broth until silky soft, then stirred in plenty of Parmigiano and beaten eggs just before serving. Here we use escarole instead of spinach, top it with crispy Pancetta for texture and meaty depth, add a squeeze of lemon juice to the eggs to lighten the flavor, and stir in pesto at the very end to brighten things up. Serve this soup with bread and salad, and you have a memorable meal fit for a chilly day indoors.

Serves 2
For the pesto:

  • 1/2 cup packed basil leaves (about 1/2 large bunch)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 ounce (1/4 cup) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

For the soup:

  • 1 ounce Pancetta, defatted and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • water as needed
  • 1 head escarole (about 1 pound), washed thoroughly and chopped
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Make the pesto: Place all the ingredients in a food processor and process to a fine paste; there may be some little basil strands here and there, because there is very little oil in this pesto, but that is fine. The purpose of this pesto is to lend flavor to the soup, not to make the soup creamy in texture, so a semi-chunky texture is fine. Remove to a bowl and lay plastic wrap directly on top of the pesto to prevent darkening. This can be done up to 2 hours before serving. Hold at room temperature until needed.

Make the soup: Place the Pancetta in a 2-quart pot. Set over medium heat and cook until the Pancetta is crispy and lightly golden, about 3 minutes; remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl.

Place the olive oil, onion, and garlic in the same pot in which you cooked the Pancetta. Set over medium heat and cover. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often and adding a bit of water if needed to prevent scorching, until the onion becomes translucent. Add the escarole and cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid. Cook, stirring often, until wilted and collapsed, about 8 minutes. Add the broth, season with 3/4 teaspoon of the salt and 1/8 teaspoon of the pepper, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook, covered, for 15 minutes, or until the escarole is silky and the soup smells rich and deep. The soup can be made up to this point 2 hours before serving and held at room temperature. Reheat when needed to the boiling point.

When you are ready to serve, beat the eggs with the lemon juice, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and the remaining 1/8 teaspoon of pepper. Return the soup to a boil. Pour in the eggs and let sit, undisturbed, until the eggs set, about 1 to 2 minutes. Stir gently once or twice, being careful to leave the eggs in large fluffy clouds, swirl in the pesto, and adjust the seasoning as needed. Serve hot, topped with the crispy Pancetta.


Broccoli Raab & Pecorino Bread Pudding

Bread puddings are an ingenious vehicle for stray bits of vegetables and cheese, stale bread, even excess steamed milk from your morning cappuccino. I don’t think I’ve ever made a bread pudding I didn’t like. The key is to taste the custard before adding the bread to ensure it is properly seasoned (in fact, season it more than you think is necessary, as the bread is neutral and requires additional seasoning). The vegetables should also be seasoned properly, so taste, taste, taste!

I prefer my bread puddings firm rather than wobbly, so I add plenty of eggs to bind the mixture properly. I also like lots of vegetables, and usually opt for greens like spinach, arugula, or broccoli raab. The vegetables should be cooked before being folded into the custard base, so they become a silky part of the whole rather than a distinct component.

Serve the bread pudding below with a simple green salad as a main course, and experiment with other vegetables if you’re inspired at the market. Just be sure to pair the cheese with the vegetable: Gruyere is lovely with mushrooms; Parmigiano with spinach; Scamorza with fennel… You get the idea.

Makes 1 large bread pudding (serves 8 as an appetizer, 4 as a main course)

For the broccoli raab:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ teaspoon chili flakes
  • 1 large bunch broccoli raab, tough stems removed, leaves coarsely chopped (about 1 pound prior to trimming)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup water

For the bread puddings:

  • extra-virgin olive oil for greasing the roasting pan
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano, plus 2 tablespoons for sprinkling
  • ¼ pound day-old white sliced bread, torn into 1/2-inch pieces
  • ¼ pound thickly sliced Pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch dice


Make the broccoli raab: Preheat the oven to 375° (preferably set on convection).

Place the olive oil, garlic, and chili in a 12-inch sauté pan. Warm gently over medium heat until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add the broccoli raab, season with the salt, and sauté 5 minutes, or until wilted. Add the water and continue to cook until the water evaporates and the raab is soft, about 5 more minutes. Cool to room temperature and adjust the seasoning as needed.

Make the bread pudding: Brush an 8-inch square roasting pan with olive oil.

Beat the eggs, milk, salt, pepper, and ½ cup of the Pecorino in a large bowl with a whisk until aerated and some bubbles have formed in the mixture. The longer you beat, the lighter the bread pudding will be. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Add the bread and the sautéed raab. Mix gently with your hands so the bread soaks up some of the liquid, but do not overmix or the bread will disintegrate and lose its texture.

Spoon the mixture in the prepared roasting pan and dust with the remaining 2 tablespoons of Pecorino. Scatter the Pancetta over the top.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until set, golden-brown on top, and bubbling. Let rest 5 minutes, then cut into wedges and serve hot.


Spaghetti Frittata with Onions, Pancetta, and Parmigiano

Frittata is an amazing food: main course, appetizer, finger food, snack… whatever time of day, it works, it satisfies, and it is easy to make. Best of all, frittata is an ideal way to use up leftover ingredients. You can add chopped roasted vegetables, diced Prosciutto, bits of runny or firm cheeses, even boiled pasta. Below is a frittata with the flavors of carbonara sauce, a delicious combination of Pancetta, Parmigiano, and black pepper. I add sauteed onions for a delicately sweet note. For a vegetarian version, omit the Pancetta and add 1/2 pound of diced button mushrooms to the onions.

Serves 2 as a main course, 4 as a side dish

  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 pound spaghetti
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, minced
  • 1/4 pound Pancetta, defatted and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon of the salt and the spaghetti. Cook, stirring often, until al dente. Drain and place in a bowl.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat the eggs vigorously for 2 minutes with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and the pepper; the longer you beat the eggs, the fluffier and lighter your frittata will be.

Add the boiled spaghetti before it cools off and starts to stick together, and stir quickly to prevent the eggs from scrambling, as the spaghetti is hot.

In a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat, place 1 teaspoon of the olive oil, the onion, and the Pancetta. Set over medium heat and cook, stirring once in a while, until soft and golden, about 10 minutes, adding a bit of water if needed to prevent scorching. Add to the eggs and spaghetti in the bowl, stirring quickly to prevent the eggs from scrambling, as the Pancetta and onion are hot. Stir in the Parmigiano.

At this point, I usually taste for seasoning and adjust as needed; if you are concerned about eating raw egg, you can certainly cook a small portion of frittata first before tasting.

Place the same skillet on a medium flame and brush with 1 teaspoon the olive oil. When the skillet is hot, after about 1 minute, pour in the frittata mixture. Cover with a lid and cook for 5 minutes, or until the bottom is golden and the top is set.

Using the lid for easy flipping, invert the frittata onto the lid. Place the empty skillet back on the heat and brush with the remaining teaspoon of olive oil. Slice the frittata back into the skillet, uncooked side down. Cook, uncovered, for 5 more minutes, or until golden and set on the bottom as well.

Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.


Tagliatelle with Beef Braciole in Red Wine and Tomato Sauce

This is Sunday food: beef is pounded thin and rolled around Pancetta, parsley, garlic, and grated Pecorino, then braised with red wine, aromatic vegetables, and tomatoes until succulent. The Pecorino melts inside the bundles, making the sauce even richer and ensuring the bundles hold together. In typical Italian fashion, the stuffed beef bundles (known as braciole in southern Italy, involtini in northern Italy) should be served as a second course, their rich cooking juices tossed with pasta as a first course.

Serves 4

For the bundles:

  • 1 and ½ pounds beef round tip steak, cut into 4 pieces and pounded thin with a mallet (about ¼-inch thick)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ pound Pancetta, finely minced
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped Italian parsley
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano

For the sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, minced
  • 1 carrot, minced
  • 1 celery stalk, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced Italian parsley
  • ¼ teaspoon chili flakes
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups chopped San Marzano canned tomatoes
  • 1 cup cool water, plus extra as needed

To serve:

  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 pound fresh tagliatelle pasta
  • 1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano, plus extra for passing at the table
  • 1 tablespoon minced Italian parsley


Make the bundles: Line a counter with a sheet of aluminum foil or parchment paper and place the two slices of steak on the foil or parchment in a single layer. Season evenly with the salt and pepper. In a bowl, combine the Pancetta, garlic, parsley, and Pecorino. Following the natural grain of the meat, and roll into tight bundles. The meat will be more tender once cooked if you roll with the grain instead of against the grain, so that when you slice the braciole later, it will be against the grain.


Make the sauce: Warm the olive oil in a deep, wide saucepan large enough to accommodate the pasta later. Add the bundles and cook over medium heat, turning as needed, until the bundles brown evenly on all sides, about 10 minutes. (Don’t worry if a bit of the stuffing pops out while searing; it will add richness to the sauce.)

Stir in the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, parsley, and chili, and cook until the vegetables are translucent and lightly golden, about 5 minutes.


Deglaze with the wine and cook until it almost fully evaporates, about 3 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan to release any bits and pieces that have stuck. Add the salt and pepper and stir in the tomatoes and water. Bring to a gentle boil. Cover and cook over low heat for 1 to 2 hours, or until the bundles feel tender when poked with a fork, adding a bit of water as needed to prevent scorching and to keep the sauce pleasantly moist and turning the bundles once in a while to promote even cooking. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning. Keep warm.


When you are ready to serve, make the pasta: Bring 5 quarts of water to a boil. Add the salt and the tagliatelle, and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving 2 cups of the pasta cooking water.

Remove the bundles from the sauce, and place the bundles on a platter; to serve the bundles as a second course, spoon on some of the sauce and tent with aluminum foil to keep warm.

To serve: Thin out the braciole sauce in the pan with enough of the reserved pasta cooking water to obtain a flowing consistency; taste again and adjust the seasoning if needed. Add the tagliatelle to the sauce, sprinkle with the Pecorino, and toss vigorously to coat. Serve the pasta hot, sprinkled with the parsley. Serve the braciole as a second course.