Orecchiette with Pancetta and Cherry Tomatoes

Growing up, I always loved Italian food. Well, I loved what I was exposed to, which was Americanized Italian food. My mom made some delicious spaghetti and lasagna, and she still does. However, our sauce always came from jars, such as Ragu and other brands. For a long time I didn’t even know there was anything different. It wasn’t until recently that I discovered how great pasta can be when made at home, and how not-so-good those pre-made sauces can be. Don’t get me wrong though: I love a good home-cooked meal from my mother. She’s a good cook, but for a lot of Americans, I think jarred sauce such as that is a go-to, and it’s easy and quick.

Last month I discovered that I can use cans of San Marzano tomatoes imported from Italy and make proper use of olive oil, garlic, and other seasonings, to make some excellent pasta that didn’t need pre-made sauces. It helps to live near a place like Jungle Jim’s, where you can get almost any kind of food from any kind of cuisine all over the world (seriously, this store is awesome, and a lot of fun, and with a craft beer and wine selection to die for).

This dish uses some fresh cherry tomatoes, rather than San Marzano, but I was very happy with how it turned out. I do need to work on my presentation, perhaps, but I wasn’t really going for a professional menu photo anyways, I guess. I hope others find it enjoyable as well. I’m open to suggestions. Read on for more!

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Orecchiette pasta
  • 1 lb Cherry tomatoes (halved)
  • 3 Garlic cloves (smashed)
  • Pancetta (diced)
  • 4 Tbsp Olive oil
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Parmesan (fresh, grated)
  • Pecorino Romano (fresh, grated)
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Pepper (to taste)
  • Red pepper flakes (optional, to taste)

Directions

Bring a pot of water to boil for the pasta, salted (preferably with sea salt). While that heats up, warm 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Smash 3 cloves of garlic and add them to the olive oil. Cook for about 10 minutes to infuse the oil with the garlic’s flavor and scent. It should smell amazing at that point. Once the garlic is browned and the oil fragrant, you remove and discard the garlic from the pan.

Next add the pancetta to the olive oil and cook on medium for just a couple of minutes. When the water is boiling, add the pasta and boil until al dente, stirring occasionally. After cooking the pancetta for a couple of minutes, add the halved cherry tomatoes to the pan. Cook until the tomatoes begin to shrivel, then reduce to low heat and cook a few more minutes until tomatoes soften.

When the pasta is finished, drain it (never rinse the pasta), reserving a bit of pasta water for possible use later. Add the drained pasta to the pan with the tomatoes and pancetta. Add a tablespoon of olive oil and mix everything together. Add salt and pepper to taste (again, preferably sea salt) and, optionally, a bit of crushed red pepper flakes if you want a bit of spice to it. Add fresh basil leaves (I usually rip them up into dime- to penny-sized pieces, roughly) and grate some fresh pecorino romano cheese over the pasta. If you’re like me, you’ll add a lot of cheese here. Grate a bit of parmesan as well, if you like, then mix everything up again before serving.

Serve the pasta with another sprinkling of pecorino and a garnish of some basil leaves. For a side, I recommend asparagus, coated in olive oil, salt, and pepper, and baked for 20 minutes at 350º.

Obviously the times in this recipe aren’t too precise and there are some refinements that can be made but I enjoyed making this dish and eating it was even better. My wife and I really loved it and I’ll be making this again. I’d love to hear any suggestions for improvements or ideas for experimentation; just send them to my email.

Workflow for Saving Recipes from Kitchen Stories to Paprika

When the Paprika extension isn’t available but a URL for the recipe is, Workflow can help.

I’ve recently discovered that I really enjoy cooking. I love trying to make something new and experimenting with various spices, seasonings, and other ingredients to create a unique and delicious flavor. For recipe management, I use Paprika Recipe Manager for iPhone, iPad, and Mac (separate purchases for each but recipes do sync between versions with a free Paprika account). Paprika allows you to save recipes via a sharing extension in the iOS share sheet. If it isn’t able to extract the recipe from a webpage, it will ask you to open the page in Paprika’s in-app browser, which provides some excellent clipboard tools for manually saving the recipe in a fairly quick and easy manner. For instance, you can select the ingredients on the page, and then tap the Ingredients button along the bottom of the browser, then do the same for directions, cook time, nutrition, notes, etc.

The recipe clipper in Paprika's in-App browser

Paprika also allows you to search recipes within the in-app browser, auto-detects if a URL is in the clipboard (and prompts to load it), create new recipes manually from scratch, manage and organize recipes through categories or favorites, pin multiple recipes for quick access when cooking, easily set timers (auto-detected in the text of the recipe), add ingredients of a recipe to a shopping list and sync that list to Reminders, and create weekly meal plans which can be synced to your calendar. Unfortunately the app hasn’t been updated in awhile and I’m not so sure it’s in active development anymore, which is a shame. That being said, as long as it works, I will continue to use it. One thing I have wanted to see from the developers for some time now is an improvement on the base URL scheme of the app: the ability to prefix a URL with their URL scheme and have that page opened in Paprika’s browser. There are apps which have used URL schemes in this way for some time. Prefixing a URL in Safari with the letter r, as in rhttp://recipesite.com/thisrecipe will open that URL in the in-app browser for the Documents app by Readdle. 1Password also provides the ability to open a URL within their browser (by prefixing a URL with op).

The extension for Paprika usually works great in Safari, in my experience. However there are instances where it wont be available, such as when viewing recipes from other apps. I’ve found the Kitchen Stories app to be quite fun to browse over the past few months but due to the data it makes available to the share sheet, the Paprika extension isn’t available here. You could use the Copy Link button available in their custom share page, and then launch Paprika manually, which would then prompt you to load the URL in the clipboard. Alternatively, you could let Workflow take care of that for you. Just like I have workflows to open a page in Documents or 1Password with their aforementioned URL schemes, I also have a workaround for Paprika. This uses the Workflow app on iOS as an action extension to copy the input URL to the clipboard and then launch Paprika using their paprika:// URL scheme, where the app will prompt you to load the page in the browser so you can save the recipe.

Saving recipes from Kitchen Stories to Paprika using Workflow

The workflow also stores your current clipboard content to a variable so that if you return to Kitchen Stories after saving the recipe, while the Workflow extension is still running, it will set the prior data back to your clipboard. I don’t prefer having to use clipboard workarounds so being able to at least maintain whatever I may have on there is a nice thing for me. The workflow will work from other apps as well, as long as they make the recipe’s URL available to the share sheet. You can get the workflow here.

I keep hoping to see some more advanced features from Paprika, as well as better export options, but I still find it to be really great at what it does and will continue to use it for now.