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Spaghetti with Varnelli, tomatoes and pancetta

My friend Gianluca Giorgi is a bit of a guru. He’s the man Jamie Oliver turns to help his under-chefs get under the skin of Italy and Italian cooking. Gianluca regularly takes Olivettini on gastronomic tours of the hotspots of Le Marche, showing them the olive groves, and introducing them to the artisan pasta makers and chefs of the region. I asked Gianluca for his favourite recipe the other day. As you’d expect the recipe is extremely simple, but depends on the best ingredients – pendolino tomatoes, the red onion of Tropea and an anise-flavoured liqueur from Marche called Varnelli. Obviously, unless you’re reading this from the east coast of Italy, you may need to compromise, but do the best you can.


Recipe

  • Serves 2
  • Preparation time: 10 minutes
  • Cooking time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • Onion – 1 from Tropea
  • Pancetta – 70g/2.5oz diced
  • Extra virgin olive oil - for frying
  • Varnelli – 1 espresso cup
  • Cherry tomatoes – 150g/5.3oz
  • Spaghetti – 160g/5.6oz
  • Freshly ground black pepper – to taste
Onion – 1 from Tropea Pancetta – 70g/2.5oz diced Extra virgin olive oil - for frying Varnelli – 1 espresso cup Cherry tomatoes – 150g/5.3oz Spaghetti – 160g/5.6oz Freshly ground black pepper – to taste

Method

Chop the onion and pancetta into small cubes. Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the onion and pancetta. When the onion is golden, turn the heat up a bit and add the Varnelli, and enjoy the smell. (It’s chef’s privilege to have a soupcon yourself, just not straight from the bottle). Once this has more or less evaporated add the chopped up tomatoes. Cook this all together for a further 15 minutes.

Meanwhile cook the spaghetti in very salty boiling water.

Taste and season the sauce. Drain the pasta once it’s cooked but keep a cupful of pasta water aside. Add the pasta to the sauce. Mix together well and add some of the pasta water if it needs loosening up. Season with some freshly ground pepper and enjoy.