Paprika loves fat. That’s what Flora told me the other day.
At da Flora Restaurant (701 Columbus at Filbert), they know how to use the paprika she brings in from a small family producer in Hungary. The chicken or pork paprikash over homemade dumplings is one of my favorite dishes.
Flora is now selling her favorite paprika from the last harvest at her restaurant. We talked about the hot and mild paprika and the special paprika flakes. She thought the mild paprika would be best for me. I want to buy some but I don’t have any recipes that call for paprika I confessed. Flora quickly offered up a description of this pasta cream sauce with pancetta and radicchio flavored with the paprika. I paid her for the packet tied with a wide blue ribbon – the mild one.
I devised a recipe from what Flora told me and cooked it up the other day. Flora’s fresh paprika is the star of this recipe, smoky and piquant. I like the zesty basic tomato sauce and I like the milder one softened by the cream. Have it your way!
You can serve this sauce with long or short pasta. I like fusilli or rigatoni for the short and linguine or fettucini for the long. Be sure to get a good semolina pasta from Campania or Puglia in Italy . The artisanal pasta extruded through a bronze die is best. The bronze die creates a rough surface on the outside of the pasta that catches the sauce.
You can make the sauce in the time that it takes to cook the pasta. It’s hot and spicy but if you want it milder, add the cream to the sauce.
Paprika, Radicchio and Pancetta Sauce
- 1 pound or 500 grams 100% semolina dried pasta (I like to use fusilli or rigatoni but use your favorite short or long cut)
- 1 28 oz. can San Marzano tomatoes, crushed well by hand
- 1 tablespoon EVOO
- 4 oz. pancetta or guanciale diced into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 small head radicchio, cored and sliced in thin ribbons
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 cup heavy cream (Optional)
- 2 tablespoons sea salt
- Put on a large pot of water to boil.
- Add the sea salt.
- Heat the EVOO in the pan.
- Add the pancetta and brown well.
- Add the garlic and the paprika and mix well with the pancetta.
- Add the radicchio and wilt while mixing the ingredients together.
- Add the tomatoes.
- Simmer at medium-high until the sauce thickens. Stir frequently.
- (If you want a milder sauce add the cream. Stir well to mix the cream into the tomato sauce. If the sauce is too loose continue cooking to thicken the sauce a bit.)
- When the water is at a rapid boil cook the pasta to very al dente.
- Drain the pasta, reserving about a cup of the pasta water.
- Add the pasta to the sauce to finish cooking.
- If the sauce is too thick add some of the pasta water.
- Serve immediately with freshly grated parmigiano.