Fettuccine with Herbs and Basil – Fettuccine Abruzzesi

RosieSay what you will about the Jersey Shore, I love it there. I’ve been spending parts of the summer at the shore since I was fresh out of Kindergarten.

As a kid, my Jersey Shore days were simple: beach, boardwalk, and late night family time with aunts, uncles, and cousins (It probably wasn’t that late, but anything past dark for a kid who had to go to bed when the sun was still out at home is magic).

For me, the shore is full of the things that I love: the ocean, sea salt in my hair, morning runs, evening walks, seafood and J.R.’s pizza, time with my family, and my carousel horse, Rosie. My dad is the happiest when he’s at the shore, I think, and I am as well. I have grown to love all things Easty-Coasty (that’s an Ali-ism).

A long time ago, I discovered a cookbook by Father Joseph Orsini, a priest from Bayonne, New Jersey. I was just learning to cook by teaching myself, and I found the authenticity and charming voice of Father Orsini a comfort in the kitchen. I have made several of his recipes, but this one is my favorite. Naturally, though, even Father Orsini isn’t safe from my pen:

Recipe W

Fettuccine Abruzzesi is simple, yet elegant. And for technique, this recipe provides lessons in deglazing, reducing, and using broth to make a simple pasta dish. Here’s the recipe with just a few minor adjustments:

The Ingredients:

  • 3 Tablespoons of Olive Oil – I usually use less oil. More like 2 tbs.
  • 1/2 Cup Chopped Fatty Bacon – …and I usually use 3/4 of a cup of quality, uncured bacon. I prefer it meatier and not as fatty. This is why I use less Olive Oil.
  • 1 Onion Peeled and Chopped – I interpret this as one medium/large onion. (See? It’s not just me – Italians just don’t do exact onion quantity.)
  • 2/3 Cup Chicken Stock
  • 6 Fresh Basil Leaves – Chopped
  • Kosher Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • Hot Pepper
  • 12 oz Fettuccine – The original recipe calls for 14. I like a smaller pasta-to-good-stuff ratio.
  • 2/3 Cup of Grated Pecorino Romano Cheese – Buy it and grate it. And, as usual, be sure to get authentic Pecorino Romano from Italy if you can. Don’t use the stuff from a can – if you do, you might as well not make this dish. The cheese, bacon, and basil are the main elements of flavor and the cheese matters.

The Tools:

  • Cutting Board and Knife
  • Microplane or Grater
  • Heavy-Bottomed Saute Pan – Don’t use non-stick. When I take over the world, non-stick will only be for eggs.
  • Large Pot for pasta
  • Wooden Spoon
  • Measuring Cups and Spoons for both solid and liquid measure
  • Large Mixing Bowl

The Action:

  • Gather your ingredients:

Ingredients W

  • Fill your pasta pot with water and turn the heat on high. Add salt to the water when it boils and cook the pasta as directed on the package.
  • Chop up the onion and the bacon. You can do this while the pasta is cooking or before. I like to have everything chopped and ready to go in my kitchen, so I would chop before.

Here’s a little tip for you: I use scissors to cut things in the kitchen all the time. Bacon is so much easier to cut up when you use scissors! If you want some excellent little scissors, head to Ikea. They have scissors in a pack of three that each have a different color and size. These are easily the best scissors ever.

  • Pour the olive oil into your saute pan and heat over medium-high.
  • Add the bacon and the onion to the oil and “fry gently”, says Father Orsini. He suggests 5 minutes. I suggest that you cook this a bit longer, I like the bacon to get a little crispy and the onions to break down just slightly.
  • When the bacon and onion are done to your satisfaction, add the chicken stock. Scrape the brown bits of the bottom as you add the liquid:

Sautee Q

  • Continue cooking the bacon and onion in the stock until the stock is reduced and slightly thick. This will take about 3-7 minutes. When it’s right, it will look like this:

Brown Bits W

See how the sauce is thick and pulling towards the center? Yum.

  • Drain the pasta, but do not rinse it. It doesn’t hurt if there is a little extra water on the pasta at all.
  • Pour the pasta into your mixing bowl and add the bacon/onion mixture on top of it.
  • Add the cheese.
  • Fold the mixture together gently with a wooden spoon.

Mix W

  • Season with salt, pepper, and hot pepper to your taste.
  • Snip up the basil (I use scissors for this, too.) and add it to the mixture. Fold it in gently.
  • Serve in individual bowls with a touch of grated cheese over the top.

Result W

Enjoy!

Ali Wechman

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