Pasta with pork fillet and fresh herbs
This recipe is the invention of Giorgio Barchiesi, a larger than life gourmand and old school cook who owns a restaurant near his home in Montefalco in Umbria. He is a veterinarian by training but since changing professions he has no problem cooking animals instead of saving them.
In a strange coincidence there is another Italian vet turned restaurateur and butcher who will be much better known to tourists who visit the Chianti area. His name is Dario Cecchini and he runs a carnivore’s heaven in Panzano called the Antica Macelleria but he struggled with the vet turned butcher contradiction for years before he came to terms with it.
Barchiesi goes by the nickname ‘Giorgione’ in Italy and those of you who know a little Italian will understand why when you see pictures of him before he lost weight.
His self-taught cooking style is either old fashioned or traditional depending on your point of view and in his use of ingredients he makes no concessions to changing trends in food consumption because flavor and authenticity are his only goals. This is one of his lighter dishes.
Giorgione travels extensively around Italy and has acquired an encyclopedic knowledge of all the best regional meats, fish, cheese and vegetables which he then proceeds to showcase in various individual dishes that he creates. For this recipe he chose to highlight cinta senese, which is a noble and very ancient breed of pig from Siena that is highly prized for its flavor.
It was close to extinction 60 years ago before herd levels were slowly rejuvenated and the DOP regulations now protect the high quality of the pork by restricting adult pigs to no more than 10 per hectare. Furthermore 60% of their nourishment must come from Tuscan products, which means that in their woodland pastures they mostly feed off acorns, olives, leaves and locally grown grains.
It's hard to find Cinta Senese even in Lucca and it will be impossible wherever you are so just substitute any good quality pork fillet and instead make a point of trying it in a restaurant next time you're anywhere near Siena.
Montefalco, Giorgione's adopted home town, is a small but very attractive town that gives its name to Umbria’s most famous red wine and has tremendous views across the Umbrian countryside from its perch at 1,600 feet not far from Perugia.
Giorgione's concept behind this dish was to compensate for the leanness of the pork fillet by adding 3 forms of fat: pancetta, butter and olive oil, and to freshen up the flavor by adding a generous portion of 3 different fresh herbs and lemon zest. We like this recipe quite a lot as it's simple enough to make and very flavorful. The finocchietto (fennel) is important here and it may be easier to use the feathery green tops on a fennel bulb.
Ingredients for 2 people:
280 grams ( 10 oz ) mezzi rigatoni or other short pasta shape
280 grams ( 10 oz ) pork fillet
rosemary, sage and wild fennel (use a generous quantity of these herbs)
50 grams ( 2 oz ) pancetta or guanciale
¾ glass of dry white wine
knob of butter
1 clove of garlic (optional for you but essential for Giorgione)
extra virgin Italian olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Trim the pork fillet of any white membranes and chop into half inch cubes.
2. Add the zest of 1 lemon to the herbs (and garlic if using) and chop them all together quite finely, then mix with the cubes of pork and season with salt and pepper.
3. Chop the pancetta/guanciale into smallish pieces and add to a large pan with the butter and olive oil.
4. Put the pasta into boiling water.
5. Cook the pancetta for about 3 minutes on a medium high heat then add half of the wine.
6. After another minute add the pork and herbs mixture and cook on high heat for about 3 minutes
7. Add the rest of the white wine and after another minute turn the heat down to very low until the pasta is ready. Don't overcook the tender cubes of pork fillet or they will become tough. Add the pasta to the pan, mix well and finish with a generous slug of the best olive oil.