Orecchiette with Chorizo and Chickpeas

Orecchiette with Chorizo and ChickpeasThe first time we used pasta Orecchiette was around 2009. We had seen a recipe in a food magazine using the pasta, so to the store we went. We had a hard time finding it, but our local co-op (sell’s all natural – organic foods) had the pasta. When we described the pasta (as we had forgotten the name) the sales lady new right away what we wanted. She referred to the pasta as little pope hats. Ever since Orechiette has become a staple in our pantry.

About.com talks on Italian food and describes Orechiette as a distinctive Puglian type of pasta shaped roughly like small ears, as orecchio in Italian means eat, and Orecchiette means little ears. The pasta is roughly 3/4 of an inch across, slightly domed, and the centers are thinner than the rim of the pasta. The pastas texture is soft in the middle and more chewy along the rim or outside of the pasta.

Barilla (store brand that sells Italian products) says that Orecchiette is the signature pasta of Puglia, describing Puglia as a humble farming land situated along the southeastern coast of Italy.

Here is a video posted to You-Tube of Italian women in Italy making fresh Orechiette pasta.
Now for our featured recipe: Orecchiette with Chorizo and Chickpeas, and here is what you will need.

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 small shallots, chopped

3/4 pound fresh Mexican chorizo, casings removed

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 cups chicken broth

1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed

12 ounces Orecchiette

Garnishes:

Fresh chopped cilantro or parsley

Finely grated Parmesan and lemon zest

cooking Mexican chorizoHeat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots and saute, stirring often, until beginning to brown and smell fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add chorizo to pan and break up with a spoon, and cook meat until browned and cooked through, about 5-7 minutes.

adding chickpeas to meat sauceNext add tomato paste and red pepper flakes to meat mixture and mix in. Next add the broth, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened a bit, about 15-20 minutes. Next add the can of chickpeas, and mix in, cooking 2 minutes more to heat the chickpeas through.

adding orechiette to meat sauceMeanwhile, cook pasta according to packaged instructions. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking liquid.

Next add the pasta and 1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid to meat sauce. Continue to cook until sauce thickens and coats pasta, about 3 minutes. Add the pasta liquid as needed. You might use the whole cup, and possibly less.

Orecchiette with Chorizo and Chickpeas in the panServe pasta topped with cilantro or parsley (your choice), Parmesan, and lemon zest.

Orecchiette with Chorizo and ChickpeasWe have had this for left overs a few times, and each time we add cilantro, cheese, and lemon zest. The zest adds great flavor to this dish. Be sure to use it.

For the side salad using candy cane beets, see our recipe here: Shredded Candy Cane and Green Apple Slaw with Pecans.

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Flatbread with Zucchini Smoked Bacon and Mascarpone Cheese

fresh from the oven Flatbread with Zucchini Smoked Bacon and Mascarpone CheeseThe recipe we are featuring is made with a smoked bacon, a “Apple-Bourbon Smoked Bacon” to be exact. Yummy!!

Have you ever thought how flavors are smoked into the bacon? According to Bacon Wikia, smoked bacon is prepared using different types of wood chips or sawdust for different flavors, such as applewood gives the bacon a mild, fruity flavor. Oak and hickory wood produces a stronger, heartier flavor.

The apple-bourbon smoked bacon is made with applewood sawdust, bourbon whiskey, and brown sugar or coconut palm sugar.

smoking bacon

Photo Credit: Bacon Wikia

Turning our attention to Bacon Wikia again, they explain how you can smoke bacon at home, and I would say it is similar on a grander scale at a smoke house.

They say, “We like to cold-smoke the meat at a low temperature over a long period of time. This ensures that you get the maximum smoke penetration and gives you a rich color on the meat. Try to keep the temperature of the smoker between 80F and 100F. When you start going above this the surface of the meat will start to seal and the smoke will no longer penetrate the meat. Smoke the meat for about 8 hours, or until you are happy with the color” (BaconWiki).

Now for our featured recipe: FlatBread with Zucchini Smoked Bacon and Mascarpone Cheese. We got our inspiration from a recipe we pinned to our Vegetable Recipe Ideas board on Pinterest (Link here to view our boards – Delectable Foods on Pinterest). But we made modifications to fit our taste. The original recipe does not include bacon, and requires a smoked paprika which we omitted. The original recipe requires to make a flatbread from scratch, but to save time we bought a ready made whole wheat flatbread from the Whole Foods Market.

Here is what you will need.

2 whole wheat flatbreads, roughly 7 3/4 inches X 10 1/4 inches

5 ounces mascarpone cheese

2 small shallot, finely minced

2 small zucchini, washed and patted dry

1/2 pound apple-bourbon smoked bacon

extra virgin olive oil

parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees

prepared uncooked Flatbread with Zucchini Smoked Bacon and Mascarpone CheeseCook bacon in a large ceramic coated skillet over medium heat. Cook bacon only until half done, about 3 to 4 minutes. remove from heat, and let cool. Using a knife or kitchen shears cut bacon into 1 inch slices.

In a medium bowl, mix the minced shallots with the mascarpone cheese. Place the flatbread on a cookie sheet, and spread the cheese mixture over the top of the bread, trying to get every square inch of the bread surface.

Next using a vegetable peeler, scatter ribbons over the top of the cheese mixture, covering the entire area. Next divide the cut bacon over the top of each flatbread.

Lightly drizzle with some olive oil, and  grate some parmesan cheese over the top. Grate as much or as little as you want.prepared uncooked close up of Flatbread with Flatbread with Zucchini Smoked Bacon and Mascarpone CheesePut the cookie sheet in the heated oven, and bake for 10 – 12 minutes, or until golden brown.

Flatbread with Zucchini Smoked Bacon and Mascarpone CheeseRemove from the oven, and let cool for 3 minutes. Move flatbreads to a cutting board, and using a pizza slicer, slice each flatbread into 4 equal pieces. Plate and serve. The preparation will serve 2 to 4 persons. Just double the recipe to make more servings.

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