I was recently waiting at the bar of a favorite restaurant where the owner’s cookbook was proudly displayed. Sipping on my cocktail, I began flipping through the book, A Man and His Meatballs because, well, who can resist a title like that. And I also happen to know that this man’s meatballs are, um, quite tasty. (Whoa. But there was really no other way to put it.) I never made it to the meatball recipe. I was struck by something else: Pasta with Avocado and Pancetta.
Avocado tossed in a hot pasta dish? I’d never seen that before. I was intrigued.
I’m not sure what the recipe is called in the book. I’m not even sure of the specific recipe. Though I studied it so that I could try it at home the next day, the wine erased the details. All I remembered was pasta, avocado, pancetta. Still inspiration enough, I picked up all three ingredients and got to work.
As it turns out, avocado is a brilliant addition to hot pasta. It adds a new kind of richness, distinct from the kind that comes from olive oil, butter or cheese. Or even pancetta. And, it gives your pasta an unexpected nutritional boost (that may even help your memory, as I learned yesterday!).
Give this pasta a try and let me know what you think—yay or nay on adding avocado to your pasta? I give this an enthusiastic thumbs up. I mean, after all, it’s like a pasta version of one of the great sandwiches, BLT with avocado (if we say that basil is close enough to lettuce, of course). Hello! Who’s going to turn that down?!
Pasta with Avocado and Pancetta
1 lb cut pasta (I used gemelli)
2 Tbsp olive oil, plus a drizzle to finish
2 large cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 c cubed thick-cut pancetta
1 pint cherry tomatoes
salt & pepper
red pepper flakes
1 c canned chopped tomatoes, measured with their juices
3/4 c chicken broth
1/4 c pasta cooking water, maybe more
1 c basil chiffonade
1 large avocado, cubed
1. Put a large pot of salted water on medium-high heat (about 6 qts water to 2 tablespoons salt). Bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain, saving a mugful of cooking water, and set pasta aside.
2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic. Saute for a minute, before adding pancetta. Saute another 4 or 5 minutes, tossing frequently, until pancetta begins to crisp around the edges. (If your garlic begins to brown, lower the heat.)
3. Add tomatoes, salt, pepper and pepper flakes. Stir to coat with oil and cover; cook for about 5-7 minutes, until tomatoes begin to pop. Add chopped tomatoes and broth. Cook for another 5 minutes or so, allowing all of the flavors to come together.
4. Combine pasta and tomato sauce and place over medium-low heat. Toss to combine well. If the pasta is too dry, add pasta cooking water until you have enough sauce to coat the pasta well. (This is not a super saucy dish.)
5. Take off heat and stir in basil, avocado and pecorino to taste. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve!