The Perfect Comfort Food: Creamy Penne and Pancetta

Are you ready to embark on a culinary adventure that combines the richness of cream, the freshness of greens, and the savory delight of pancetta? In this mouthwatering recipe, we’ll guide you through creating Penne with Creamed Greens and Pancetta, a dish that’s sure to impress your family and friends. This recipe from Food 52 offers a delightful fusion of flavors, textures, and colors, making it an ideal choice for a cozy family dinner or a special gathering with loved ones.

Ingredients for creamy penne and pancetta: 

  • 1 pound of penne rigate
  • 1/3 cup of crème fraîche
  • 1/4 cup of heavy cream
  • 1/4 pound of pancetta, diced into 1/4-inch pieces (optional)
  • 1 pound of fresh broccoli rabe, thoroughly rinsed and trimmed
  • 1 medium bunch of dinosaur kale, rinsed and stems trimmed
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice (approximately 1/2 lemon)
  • 3 tablespoons of grated pecorino Romano, with extra for finishing touches
  • A pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of kosher salt, plus more to taste

Directions for creamy penne and pancetta: 

  1. Begin by spreading the diced pancetta in a sauté pan and placing it over medium heat. Cook the pancetta until the fat is rendered and it turns crispy. Depending on your stove, you might need to lower the heat as you go to ensure even cooking. Once done, remove the pancetta from the pan and place it on a paper-towel-lined plate to drain. Set it aside for later.
  2. While the pancetta is sizzling, let’s prepare our greens. Rinse the broccoli rabe and kale thoroughly, ensuring they are free of any dirt. Trim the stems as needed. In a large pot, pile the still-wet greens and drizzle olive oil over them. Season with a pinch of salt. Set the heat to high and start wilting the greens. Use tongs to move them from the bottom to the top of the pot for even cooking. Once the greens are fully wilted, and most of the liquid has evaporated (you can pour off any excess if necessary), add the heavy cream and a healthy pinch of red pepper flakes. Let it cook for about a minute.
  3. Transfer the wilted greens into a food processor, adding about half of the creamy liquid left in the pot. Begin pureeing, adding more liquid as needed to achieve a creamy consistency. Squeeze in a bit of lemon juice and add the crème fraîche. Puree once more until everything is beautifully combined. Don’t forget to taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking.
  4. In a separate large pot, bring water to a boil, and add 1 1/2 tablespoons of kosher salt. Once the water is boiling, add the penne and cook it until it reaches the perfect al dente texture. Before draining the pasta, reserve about 1/2 cup of pasta water.
  5. After draining, return the cooked penne to the pot. Now, it’s time to combine all the elements of our dish. Spoon the creamy green mixture over the pasta, add the crispy pancetta, and gently fold everything together. Sprinkle grated pecorino Romano over the top and fold again for that irresistibly cheesy finish. If you prefer a creamier consistency, you can add some of the reserved creamed greens liquid or pasta water. To serve this delectable dish, bring out your favorite shallow bowls. Spoon the Penne with Creamed Greens and Pancetta into each bowl, and don’t be shy with the extra grated pecorino Romano for that final touch of flavor.

With its rich, creamy texture, the earthy notes of greens, and the indulgent crunch of pancetta, Penne with Creamed Greens and Pancetta is a culinary masterpiece that’s bound to become a favorite in your home. This dish perfectly balances comfort and sophistication, making it suitable for any occasion. Try it out and watch your guests savor every bite!

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