A comforting bowl of creamy artichokes with the tasty hit of pancetta
This is a dish inspired by not only a craving for artichokes (I realise this is a niche craving) and also the fact that I am clearing out the pantry as we are (hopefully) moving house at the end of the month. So, the delicious jar of preserved artichokes that we were 'keeping for a nice lunch' just had to be used, as too did the small jar of artichoke cream that we brought back from France a year or so ago (2020 doesn't count as a year, right?).
So, here is my creation of artichoke and pancetta pasta. It's still work in progress, but here's how you make what you can see in the picture above...
200g of your dried pasta of choice. I've used fusilloni, which are giant fusilli, but I think tagliatelle or spaghetti might work well, too
1/2 jar preserved or tinned artichoke hearts
Glass of white wine
Some artichoke cream if you can lay your hands on it
3-4 tsp double cream (or a slosh of single/pouring cream)
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan or similar to serve
Boil a kettle and get your pasta going, depending on its packet cooking time. The fusilloni takes a good 10 minutes to get to al dente stage, but noodles could take far less time.
Start by frying off your pancetta cubes in a hot saucepan or deep-sided frying pan. They're incredibly fatty, but a good sizzle will render the fat off them and turn them a lovely colour and nice and crispy. I drained off the fat once they looked like this (you can be really good and pour it over dried breadcrumbs or porridge oats and then use it as bird feed in the winter. Whatever you do, don't pour it down the sink!)
Once the pancetta is swimming in a little less fat, slosh in a glass of white wine (and feel free to give one to the chef too). Let the wine bubble away and burn off the alcohol, but not evaporate completely, as it's the base of your sauce. Then add in the chopped artichoke hearts from your jar or tin, a few teaspoons of cream of artichokes and the double cream. The cream of artichokes is something I found in France, made by my favourite herb and spice company, Albert Menes. It's a lovely brand and available mail order here I think and in a few select delis, but generally it's worth going to a big Carrefour when you can and stocking up. If you can't find artichoke cream then maybe add in a few more artichoke hearts, or indeed blitz the rest of the tin/jar for a few mins to create a paste.
Let the sauce sizzle until your pasta is cooked, reserving some of the pasta water in case it's needed to slacken the sauce (I didn't use any this time). Add the drained pasta to the sauce and mix it all around, adding salt and pepper to taste. If I had some, I would have added a generous handful of chopped parsley at this point, but don't worry too much if you don't have any. Finish the plate with shavings of parmesan and another glass of white wine for the chef...
As I said, a different pasta might be better - I wonder if tagliatelle would be better covered by the sauce? And also the final flavour of the dish will be affected by what sort of artichoke hearts you use. Ours were preserved with lemon and chargrilled so had a real piquant flavour to them, plainer ones in tins might need a splash of lemon juice with them to add to the flavour. I think mushrooms, fried off with the pancetta, would add a good meaty bite to the sauce, and I might try it with single pouring cream, rather than the double cream I had defrosted, which had a slightly odd texture!