Rigatoni with Pesto Calabrese, Pancetta and Pistachio Recipe

Rigatoni and pancetta transform this classic herb-and-nut pesto into a Calabrian-style pasta dish. Pairs it perfectly with a Nerello Mascalese-based blend from the slopes of Etna, Italy.
Photo by Christopher Testani / Food Styling by Frances Boswell

Courtesy Ian Wortham, chef de cuisine, Tavernetta, Denver

At Tavernetta, a new restaurant in Denver, Ian Wortham’s menu features twists on classics found all across Italy. One region he draws from is Calabria, famous for its chile peppers and the signature pesto that contains them. Wortham’s sweet-hot version incorporates sun-dried tomatoes, and is a revelatory alternative to the expected basil combination.

Bread Salad with Carrot-Top Pesto
Ingredients
  • 3 red bell peppers (about 12 ounces), halved, stems and seeds removed
  • 1 ½ ounces sun-dried tomatoes
  • ¼ cup red-wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • ¼ cup Bomba Calabrese*
  • 3 ounces ricotta salata, sliced and crumbled (plus additional for garnish)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound rigatoni
  • 12 ounces pancetta, cut in ½-inch dice
  • Lemon juice, to taste
  • Toasted pistachios, coarsely chopped (for garnish)
Directions

Heat oven to 425˚F. Place peppers on baking sheet, cut-side down. Roast for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, and move to covered bowl until cool enough to handle. Rub off skin.

In small saucepan, combine sun-dried tomatoes, vinegar, tomato paste and ½ cup water. Bring to boil, then reduce to simmer. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Let cool.

Combine roasted peppers, sun-dried tomato mixture, Bomba Calabrese, ricotta salata, garlic and olive oil in blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Add salt, to taste.

In sauté pan over medium heat, add pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp on outside but still chewy, about 10 minutes. Remove from pan, and drain on paper towels.

Bring large pot of well-salted water to boil. Cook pasta according to package directions, until al dente. Strain, and reserve ½ cup pasta water.

In large pot, stir to combine reserved pasta water, pesto, pancetta and cooked pasta. Add more pasta water, if necessary, to thin. Add lemon juice just before serving. Garnish with pistachios and ricotta salata. Serves 6.

*Bomba Calabrese is a Calabrian pepper spread available in supermarkets, specialty stores and online.

Pair It

I Vigneri di Salvo Foti 2016 Rosso (Etna). “This is a delicious, juicy and cherry-fruited Nerello Mascalese-based blend from the northern slopes of Etna, made by the legendary winemaker and natural winemaking pioneer, Salvo Foti,” says Carlin Karr, wine director at Tavernetta. “The fruitful attack of the wine is balanced by minerality and fine tannins, which help balance the subtle heat of the Calabrian pesto.”

Published on March 19, 2018
About the Author
Nils Bernstein
Contributing Editor, Food

A fan of sweet wines, sour beers, and old-school Rioja, Bernstein is an exhaustive traveler in search of new and unsung chefs and restaurants, innovative wine and food pairings, and eating and drinking at the source. In addition to Wine Enthusiast, Bernstein has written for Bon Appetit, Men’s Journal, New York Times, Men’s Fitness, Hemispheres, and Kinfolk, among others.

Email: nbernstein@wineenthusiast.net



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