It's a challenge to find good pasta outside of big cities in Malaysia. The most localised pasta dishes that you can find are spaghetti with ketchup & sausages, spaghetti "carbonara" in the thickest cream sauce, and spaghetti with western sides such as chicken chop or lamb chop. I can already imagine the wrath of Italians as they read my last sentence.
Anyway, before I get attacked by any Italians (9/10 times passionate about their food like us Malaysians), I shall share the recipe of one of my favourite pasta dishes: Pork & Tomato Pasta. Forgive me in advance if this isn't how it's traditionally prepared in Italy, but this is a version that I truly love!
Pork & Tomato Pasta
Serves: 3-4 pax
Cook & Prep Time: 10 minutes prep; at least 2 hours of cooking
200g pork mince (Around 30:70 fat to lean ratio. Can be replaced with chicken/beef/turkey mince)
200g pork belly (Can be replaced with a fattier cut of chicken/beef/turkey, use bacon if you want smokiness in the sauce)
1 bulb of garlic
1 medium onion
100g of cherry tomatoes
2 cans of canned peeled plum tomatoes
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of sugar
A splash of red wine (or replace with chicken/beef stock)
Spaghetti (penne also works well)
Parmesan cheese (optional, best if it's freshly grated)
Cooking Directions : 1. Peel & roughly chop the garlic and onions.
2. Wash & half the cherry tomatoes lengthwise.
3. Cut pork belly into bite-sized chunks.
4. Heat a pot over high heat, add olive oil and stir in garlic & onions.
5. Once the onions start to turn translucent, add in the pork belly and stir for 2 minutes. Lower heat to medium if the meat browns too quickly.
6. Add pork mince and continue stirring until cooked.
7. Add a splash of red wine to deglaze the pot, making sure that you scrape the bottom of your pot to loosen all the tasty caramelised bits.
8. Add canned tomatoes and tomato paste. Break up the tomatoes & stir until well mixed.
9. Add cherry tomatoes and sugar. Bring to a boil.
10. Turn heat to low and leave it to simmer for at least 1.5 hours, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Leave the lid slightly ajar as we need the sauce to reduce.
11. Once the sauce is thick enough, season with salt to taste.
1. Salt a pot of water & cook spaghetti according to the packaging. Make sure it's al dente as we're cooking the pasta briefly in the sauce, mine took 9 minutes. *Don't forget to reserve a cup of pasta water
2. Heat your pan over low heat, ladle in some sauce over your pasta and add a touch of butter/olive oil. Mix well and add some pasta water if it's too dry.
3. Add some parmesan, halved cherry tomatoes & basil. Mix & turn off the heat.
And you're ready to eat!
The slow cooking process brings out the sweetness of the plum tomatoes, tenderises the pork belly (melt-in-your-mouth) and adds depth to the sauce. You can always make this sauce in advance to freeze - just be sure to serve it with some basil & tomatoes for that extra pop of freshness.
Anyway, did this take a lot of tender loving care on the stove? Yes. But is it worth all the hassle? Yes. So should you make this dish? Definite yes...unless you're happy with spaghetti with ketchup. hah
Till the next cook, stay safe & makan well!