Orecchiette with Savoy Cabbage and Bacon
This tasty combo of sautéed cabbage, bacon and pasta can be served either as a main dish or a pasta course. The sweet, mild flavors of the savoy cabbage and the smoky saltiness of the bacon balance each other really well. The dish is easy to prepare but needs a little bit of time to ensure that the onions and cabbage are sweet and caramelized, not toasty and brown.
- 6 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 4 tablespoons butter, divided
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 medium head savoy cabbage, cored and chopped (see recipe notes)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 8 ounces orecchiette
- 1/2 cup freshly grated romano cheese
Fry the bacon over medium heat until crisp. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside. Drain all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat from the pan and add 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until it softens and turns golden. Stir in the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes, being careful not to let the garlic brown. Transfer the mixture to a small dish and set aside.
Put a large pot of salted water on the stove.
Melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter in the pan and add about 1/4 of the cabbage. Cook until wilted, then add another batch. Repeat the process with the balance of the cabbage. Season with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the cabbage is tender and soft, about 8 to 10 minutes.
Stir in the onion-garlic mixture and the bacon. Mix well, taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, while the orecchiette cooks.
Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid. Add the orecchiette, along with 1/4 cup of the water, to the cabbage mixture and combine well. If you think the mixture is too dry, add a little more of the pasta cooking liquid.
Divide the pasta between 4 plates, top each with some cheese and serve immediately.
Makes 2 to 4 servings
Savoy cabbage is generally more tender and has a milder flavor than regular green cabbage, but feel free to substitute ~ the dish won't suffer a bit.