Recipe: Porsena's Family Pasta

Family meal in a restaurant is a fiercely guarded privilege. You simply can't ask people to come in and work like crazy dogs for 10 hours and not give them a decent meal to start off with.

I feel very strongly that if you are going to offer the meal it needs to be decent. It doesn't have to be fancy but it has to be solid and it should be made with as much love as everything else you do. It also needs to be cheap and inevitably it's a great way to use up fish or meat trimmings, things you are trying to get rid of. With pasta this is easy and one of my favorite things to do is to make a pasta stew with beans and greens and either fish or meat trimmings and some sort of small pasta shape that gets cooked in the broth. This makes quite a thick stew as the starch released into the liquid thickens the broth, much like a risotto. If you prefer the dish a little bit soupier add some broth or salted water at the end to thin it. I like it porridge-style myself, with a little grated grana and extra virgin olive oil over the top.

Serves 6

    • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
    • ¼ cup finely chopped pancetta, bacon, or guanciale
    • 1 cup scraps of fresh pork cut into ¼-inch pieces
    • 1 clove garlic minced
    • 1 small onion finely chopped
    • 1 small dried chili
    • 4 cups broth or water
    • 1 cup cooked white beans or chickpeas
    • 1.5 cups dried pasta (7 ounces of small ditalini-type)
    • 1.5 cups thin sliced greens such as Swiss chard or mustard greens
    • ¼ cup grated grana padano (optional)
    • salt and pepper to taste

Sauté the pancetta and pork in the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot. Cook over high heat until the meats begin to brown, then turn the heat down to medium and add the onion and garlic plus a teaspoon of salt. When the onions and garlic begin to wilt and turn translucent, add the chili pepper and the beans. Add the four cups of water or broth and bring up to a simmer. Add the pasta and simmer away, stirring from time to time so the pasta doesn't stick. When the water is close to absorbed add the greens and continue cooking stirring constantly until the greens are wilted the pasta is cooked through and the water has been absorbed. Adjust the seasonings and stir in the grated cheese. Serve immediately.

To read Sara's update about her first, harried weeks as the owner of Porsena, click here.

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Sara Jenkins is based in New York City, where she has developed a reputation as a fine rustic Italian chef. She runs Porchetta, an Italian sandwich shop, and Porsena, a casual restaurant focusing on classic Italian pastas. More

Sara Jenkins is based in New York City, where she has developed a reputation as a fine rustic Italian chef. As Mario Batali put it, "She is one of the few chefs in America who understands Italy and how Italians eat." Sara is also the author, with Mindy Fox, of Olives and Oranges: Recipes and Flavor Secrets from Italy, Spain, Cyprus, and Beyond, released by Houghton Mifflin in September 2008.

The daughter of a foreign correspondent and a food writer, Sara grew up all over the Mediterranean, eating her way through several cultures and learning to cook what appealed to her. She began her professional career in the kitchen with Todd English at Figs in Boston, then went on to work as a chef in Florence and the Tuscan countryside, as well as on the Caribbean island of Nevis, before returning to the U.S.

In New York City, Jenkins became chef at I Coppi, earning that restaurant two stars from The New York Times. After similar turns at Il Buco, Patio Dining, and 50 Carmine, she began work on her own cookbook.

In September 2008 she and her cousin Matthew opened Porchetta, a storefront in the East Village focusing on porchetta, a highly seasoned roast pork common in Italy as street food or festival food sold out of a truck as a sandwich. Porchetta has been wildly successful in New York City, both with gourmands and ordinary folk alike. Porchetta was awarded the top spot in Time Out New York's "100 best things we ate in 2008" and also received a four-star review from New York magazine.

In 2010, Sara Jenkins will open Porsena, a simple and casual restaurant down the street from Porchetta focusing on classic Italian pastas.

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