I love pasta in all its forms and I serve it at least once a week. Since I seem to be incapable of making two servings of sauce, inevitably we end up with a freezer full of single portions. I do not always label these.
Last night I combined one called “Bolognese” with one called simply “Pasta Sauce”. The result was actually wonderful. The familiar Bolognese was teamed up with a version punctuated with large pieces of yellow sweet peppers and a citrus overtone. As good as it was, I felt a little like I’d cheated. I’ve been away for two weeks, we’ve had a string of dinners out with more to come. It seemed the perfect time to do something special to go with my re-cycled pasta sauce.
Years ago, I was introduced to a recipe for Parmesan Toasts. A mixture of onions cooked in butter was spread over the top of what supermarkets pass off as “Italian Bread”. The bread is made with Semolina flour and it’s as dense as a Brioche loaf. Split down the middle vertically, the two sides are then slathered with the onions and copious amounts of butter. Then grated Parmesan is showered over the bread densely, covering every bit of onion and butter. Into the oven it goes. It emerges a few minutes later with its parmesan slightly browned and its buttery onion layer a wonderful surprise when you bite into it.
For my pasta dinner, I made a new variation on this theme. I chose a Vidalia onion because I prize its sweetness, a perfect foil for the assertive Parmesan. I had some pancetta cubes left over from the Broccoli and Blue Cheese soup I made last week. And instead of the Supermarket Italian, I was happy to find a more genuinely Italian bread in the form of Ciabatta rolls at Trader Joe’s. Don’t be discouraged from not trying this recipe with other bread choices. A brioche roll would come close to the original. While I was drawn to the idea of individual toasts, you can go with a Ciabatta loaf cut down the middle.
With its open texture, the butter onion pancetta mixture sank into the pockets of the Ciabatta. The parmesan topping was crisp and crunchy. The bread was an irresistible addition to our ‘leftover’ pasta dinner. And wouldn’t you know it, I ended up with a couple of pieces left over. Perfect, I discovered, when you quickly warmed them and served them with a bowl of soup for lunch. Here is the recipe:
Parmesan and Pancetta Toasts
A wonderful surprise to serve with a Pasta Dinner or a bowl of soup.
- 6 Ciabatta rolls, sliced vertically or a loaf of Ciabatta Bread sliced vertically
- 1 large Vidalia or other sweet onion, in ¼ inch dice
- 4 tbsp. butter, salted or unsalted per taste
- 6 oz. of cubed Pancetta
- 2 cups of Reggiano Parmigiano Cheese, grated
- Step 1 Melt the butter in a medium saucepan, then add the onion. Cook over very low heat until the onion is soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Step 2 Add the pancetta cubes to the onion and continue to cook until the pancetta has given up most of its fat.
- Step 3 Slice the ciabatta in half. Spread tablespoons full of the onion pancetta mixture evenly over each slice of Ciabatta.
- Step 4 Spread the grated Parmesan cheese over the top of the Ciabatta covering the onion pancetta mixture completely.
- Step 5 Broil the toasts for 3 minutes, carefully minding them so that they do not burn. I used my toaster oven set one level below “Dark”. This produced a flawless Parmesan Pancetta Toast. Serve at once.