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Whole-Wheat Pasta with Pancetta, Greens & Garlic

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Serves two to three.

  • by Lori Longbotham from Fine Cooking
    Issue 96

Whole wheat pasta does best with robust flavors that stand up to its hearty texture. In this pasta dish, pancetta, red pepper flakes, and garlic give zip to a quick saute of watercress sprigs and tiny tomatoes.

  • Kosher salt
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 8 oz. dried whole-wheat linguine or spaghetti
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 4 oz. thinly sliced pancetta, finely diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 6 cups (lightly packed) small watercress sprigs (about 2 bunches trimmed of lower stems), torn into bite-size pieces
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed finely grated Pecorino Romano

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, chop the garlic, sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. salt, and mash to a paste with the flat side of a chef's knife. Set aside.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions until al dente. Reserve about 1/3 cup of the cooking water, drain the pasta in a colander, and return to the pot.

While the pasta cooks, heat the oil in a 12-inch cast-iron or nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring frequently, until the fat is rendered, 4 to 6 minutes. Stir in the garlic and pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and add the watercress; stir until wilted, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the watercress mixture and pecorino to the pasta. Stir to combine, adding the reserved water 1 Tbs. at a time as needed to moisten. Season to taste with more salt and serve.

Serving Suggestions

Serve with Balsamic Sauteed Mushrooms on the side and Figs with Ricotta and Pistachios for dessert.

Photo: Scott Phillips

This was a delicious recipe! Quick and easy and super flavorful. I would consider substituting spinach for the watercress and adding a few other veggies like squash. It was a little spicy for my younger son, but perfect for the rest of the family. Definitely going in my weeknight meal recipe circulation!

Simple, healthy and flavorful. Perfect for a weeknight meal.

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