This recipe was inspired by one I found at The Tasty Kitchen called Almost Carbonara because it capitalizes on the lusciousness of runny egg yolk, along with pancetta and grand padano parmesan as critical elements.
The nomenclature of egg production and quality is a little overwhelming but I assume every person has to make a choice based on taste and ethics. Thanks to my mum and Jim, we have access to farm-fresh, free-run, veggie-fed eggs from their farm. Once we tasted, them, there truly was no comparing with those little white golf balls boxed up and sold at our local grocery store. They have remarkable flavour and richness that I can only crudely describe as the true essence of egg-ness. Obviously, you could accuse me of bias because Omnivore Acres is family, but you could also drop by their stand at the Downtown Winter Market, try your own and just come accept I am right.
Anyway, back to the pasta. If you don’t like fresh tomatoes, try roasting them. Roasting grape or cherry tomatoes mellows the acidity and brings out a tart sweetness. Doing so with a few handfuls of fresh sage, rosemary and thyme makes them irresistible. This, from someone who despised tomatoes in all its forms my entire childhood and teenage years (except of course ketchup!).
In addition to the roasted tomatoes, this dish’s sumptuousness comes from layering each flavour: tossing the pasta with the roasted tomatoes, cooking the eggs in the pancetta drippings, breaking the just-cooked yolks into the pasta. Dishes like this are a perfect example of why my favourite foods are one-pot meals.
Also – Omnivore Acres eggs currently have an uptick of double-yolks. Final plug!
Runny Sunny Roasted Tomato Pasta
1 pint of grape tomatoes
Three sprigs of rosemary and thyme, stripped from their branches
5-10 sage leaves, torn (to taste)
10-12 fresh basil leaves, chiffonnaded (totally a word)
3 cups fresh, washed, spinach leaves
1/2 cup grand padano parmesan cheese, finely grated
Half a 500 gram box of fettucine
4 slices of pancetta, thick cut
2 of the best eggs you can find
Toss the grape tomatoes with the rosemary, thyme, sage, a good splash of olive oil and some salt and pepper. Roast in a 425 degree oven for about 15 minutes. They will be very delicate when they come out so avoid tossing them about—just set them aside and try not to eat them.
Cook the slices of pancetta over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes per side, then turn down to low and leave on the heat for another 5-10 minutes. This is my trick for rendering out lots of fat without toughening the bacon or over-drying it. Remove it when it reaches your desired doneness, reserving the fat in the pan.
Boil salted water and cook the fettuccine. This was the first time ever that I tasted my water before cooking my pasta and it make a huge impact to the final taste of the noodles. Chef Michael Smith told me through the television that it should taste like a day at the beach.
Chop the cooked pancetta and slice the basil thinly while the pasta cooks. Piling and rolling the basil leaves and then slicing vertically is the fastest way to create thin strip: a chiffonade if you’re fancy and/or enjoy jargon.
When the pasta is done, reserve about 1/2 a cup of the pasta water before draining it. Immediately toss the pasta with the roasting pan contents, the chopped pancetta and basil slices, half the parmesan cheese, and the fresh spinach. As you mix these together, add a few splashes of pasta water to keep everything moist. The residual heat will cook the spinach and help the pasta to suck up the flavours of everything else in the bowl.
Put the frypan of pancetta fat back on the heat at medium and crack your eggs into the pan. As the whites begin to set, cover the pan, checking after 1 minute. You need the egg to be barely set.
Plate the pasta and top each portion with an egg, some fresh cracked pepper, and the rest of the grated cheese. Stab, stir, devour.