Scott Conant is the chef at Scarpetta in New York, a restaurant known for refined yet soulful Italian food. This recipe, published in Esquire magazine, takes a slim list of ingredients and creates something special from them: to me, the hallmark of a great pasta dish.
Why I Picked This Recipe: I loved the idea of chickpeas in a pasta dish—a simple and inexpensive way of adding protein—which drew me to the recipe. I stayed for the relatively unusual remaining ingredients: pancetta, shallots, and mustard greens.
What Worked: The combination of flavors was as good as promised: creamy bits of chickpea, the refreshing bitterness of the greens, the salty, crisp pieces of pancetta. It all tied together in that universal way of binding pasta with some of the cooking water and Parmesan cheese—tossed together over low heat to make a creamy, starchy result.
What Didn't: No complaints about this recipe whatsoever.
Suggested Tweaks: The recipe had called for fresh cavatelli, which I'd have been hard pressed to find, and so I went with dried. Any small shaped pasta would work fine in this dish, though it's ideal if the pasta is smaller than the chickpeas so they don't get lost.
Adapted from Esquire.
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 ounces pancetta, diced
- 2 medium shallots, thinly sliced
- 1 15-oz can chickpeas
- 1 bunch mustard greens or other bitter greens, trimmed of tough stems, well washed, and coarsely chopped (about 2 cups)
- 1 pound cavatelli or other small shaped pasta
- 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, or more to taste
In a large (12-inch) skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occassionally, until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and pour off all but about 3 tablespoons of fat.
Add the shallots to the skillet and cook until soft and beginning to caramelize, then add the chickpeas and greens. Tosss well and cook until the greens are wilted. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta in salted water until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water before draining. Return the pasta to its cooking pot and add the contents of the skillet along with the reserved pancetta, some of the cooking water, and most of the Parmesan.
Toss well to combine over low heat, adding pasta cooking water as needed, to create a silky sauce around the pasta. Season to taste with salt. Serve immediately with more Parmesan.