Sometimes I’m pressed for time and have to come up with a meal quick. And often, without the leisure to peer at my fridge or sit around thinking about the possibilities, I make the best food. This is one such dish, breathtaking in its simplicity.
During summer, you should always have a stash of sun gold tomatoes in your fridge. Quite simply, they are among the most delicious things on earth. I was quietly plodding along on some project or other when I realized the time — it was almost lunch and we had to leave in 45 minutes for our daughter’s pre-school graduation! I had to feed myself, my wife and our nanny before we left! Bread was low, so sandwiches were out. I opened the fridge, and remembered a bag of sun gold tomatoes I’d purchased the day before. I threw some salted water in a pot, sizzled some pancetta in hot pan of olive oil, cooked up some penne, rushed down to the garden for a big handful of fresh basil… and before you could say Silvio Berlusconi, there it was: the perfect summer pasta. I call it penne l’estate — estate being “summer” in Italian. Think of it as the summer version of pasta primavera.
As deceptively simple as the pasta is, make sure you follow a few simple instructions to draw out the flavor — utilizing the pasta water to make a sauce; tossing the finished pasta with a good quality parmesan; and drizzling the pasta after plating with your best olive oil. And of course, a sprinkle of your best flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper over the top. Buon appetito!
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1 lb. penne pasta
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup sliced pancetta, cut into pieces
1 lb. sun gold tomatoes (or other sweet cherry tomato)
1 cup chopped baby broccoli (or Italian broccoli)
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup grated parmesan reggiano (plus more for sprinkling)
Flaky sea salt & freshly ground pepper
Cook penne to al dente according to instructions in salted water. While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil over medium high in a large pan. Add pancetta and cook until rendered and beginning to crisp up. Add tomatoes and cook another minute or so until they begin to sizzle. Toss in broccoli and remove from heat. When pasta is done, scoop from pot with a slotted spoon into the pan with tomatoes, allowing some of the water to come with the pasta. (Or, drain the pasta in a collander but reserve 1/4 cup pasta water. Toss drained pasta into tomato pan with water.) Return tomato pan to high heat and cook, tossing, for a minute or so until tomatoes are well integrated into pasta. Remove from heat, toss in basil and parmesan. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve up onto plates, drizzle with additional olive oil, and sprinkle with more parmesan and freshly grated pepper.
Wine suggestion: dry rosé or light Italian white.