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Pasta with Pancetta, Goat Cheese, and Balsamic Vinegar
One of my son's favorite snacks is bacon wrapped dates, stuffed with blue cheese, and drizzled with a balsamic reduction. It sounds fancy but, really, when you think about it, anything wrapped in bacon is good. I think the appetizer has been around for quite awhile but the first time I actually experienced it was in a little gem tucked away in Salem, Oregon called J James Restaurant. He prepared his appetizer with figs and it was sweet, salty, gooey, and the perfect way to get a nice meal started. I have never been able to find figs in my area. We have moved from Oregon to Idaho and, still, no figs. Apparently, figs can be found in California. I never knew that, though, and missed an opportunity to buy some on my recent trip there. Dates have a similar texture and sweetness to figs and they are readily available any supermarket so, I just use them in my version of the appetizer.
Trying to come up with creative meals is a daily challenge for me. A few weeks ago, I was strolling through Fred Meyer, a local grocery store, and got the idea to make a pasta using the same flavor profile as the bacon wrapped dates appetizer. I substituted pancetta for the bacon because it is less greasy and goat cheese for the blue cheese because, well, I had a lot of goat cheese in my refrigerator and it needed to be eaten. It was a bit hit with the family and is now on my regular menu.
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Pasta with Pancetta, Goat Cheese and Balsamic Vinegar
Making pasta isn't like baking bread. You don't need to be precise. If you want more or less of any ingredient, feel free to make changes. I love pasta dishes because I can just dump things together and it always turns out tasty. Cheese is my downfall. I would probably weigh 125 pounds if it weren't for my love affair with cheese. You can certainly reduce the calories by decreasing the cheese. But, really, why? It's just so darn delicious!
- 16 oz (or so) penne pasta
- 1 cup onion, thinly sliced
- 1 cup pancetta, chopped
- 9 (Why 9? I just like 9.) dates, seeded and chopped
- extra virgin olive oil
- balsamic vinegar, for drizzling
- salt and pepper, to taste
|Serving size: 8 oz|
|Calories from Fat||216|
|% Daily Value *|
|Fat 24 g||37%|
|Saturated fat 9 g||45%|
|Unsaturated fat 7 g|
|Carbohydrates 12 g||4%|
|Sugar 8 g|
|Fiber 2 g||8%|
|Protein 14 g||28%|
|Cholesterol 40 mg||13%|
|* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.|
- Bring a pot of salted water to a rapid boil. Drop in pasta and cook for 9 minutes or until al dente.
- Meanwhile, drizzle extra virgin olive oil over a large pan and heat on medium. When heated, throw in your onions. Sprinkle with salt and allow to cook until tender.
- Add in pancetta and saute until it is crispy and aromatic.
- Add dates and stir until heated through.
- Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water, drain pasta and toss it in the pan with the pancetta, onions and dates along with the pasta water. Stir to heat through.
- Sprinkle in the goat cheese and stir to coat the pasta. If it seems to dry, pour in some more extra virgin olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste.
- Pour pasta into a bowl and drizzle a good balsamic vinegar over the top. Be careful not to pour too much on, balsamic vinegar is potent. You really only need about a tablespoon or so.
Bacon Wrapped Dates
If you ever want to try making the bacon-wrapped dates at home here is the recipe. Slice down the middle of a date and remove the seed. Insert blue cheese into the seed cavity. Wrap a small slice of very thin, cheap bacon around the date. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet seem side down. Repeat for the number of dates you would like to make. Place in a pre-heated, oven set on broil and bake until the bacon is crisp. This will take about 5 minutes or so. Meanwhile, pour some balsalmic vinegar into a pan over medium heat. Cook until reduced by half. Remove the dates from the oven, drizzle with the balsamic reduction and enjoy. These are sticky so I recommend using a toothpick to pick them up.
On a sad note, I see that J James Restaurant is now permanently closed. I am sorry to see that we will no longer be able to enjoy their wonderful dishes when we visit Salem.
©Denise Mai, June 30, 2012. All rights reserved.
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