HONEYCOMB MACARONI W/ PORKY CREAM SAUCE

Ingredients:

PORKY CREAM SAUCE

  • 2 1/2" (6 cm) square of guanciale or fatty pancetta

  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely minced

  • 2 tsp all-purpose flour

  • 1 cup whole milk

  • 3/4 cup heavy cream

  • 1/4 tsp ground green cardamon

  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/8 tsp ground white pepper

  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard

MACARONI

  • 13oz/375 grams ziti macaroni (see note *)

  • 1 1/2 heaping cup (150 grams) finely shredded gouda or cheddar (updated from 100 grams)

  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter

  • 1/2 tsp all-purpose flour

 Instructions:

PREPARE CREAM SAUCE

  1. Dice guanciale or pancetta then place inside a food-processor. Pulse and run until ground into a sausage-like paste. You'll need 3 tbsp of it for this recipe, and keep the rest for sautéing vegetables or etc.

  2. In a medium pot over medium heat, cook 3 tbsp of ground pancetta or guanciale until lightly browned and a considerable amount of fat has been rendered. Add minced garlic and flour, and cook until fragrant. Whisk in whole milk, heavy cream, ground green cardamon, ground nutmeg, black and white pepper, and let simmer for about 5 minutes until thickened. DO NOT add additional salt prior to this point, because the the pancetta and guanciale will release a lot of saltiness. Whisk in the Dijon mustard and give it a taste, then re-season with more find sea salt as needed.

  3. If you don't mind a chunkier texture, keep the sauce as is. But if you like a silkier texture, strain the sauce over a find sieve into another pot, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as you can, then discard the solids. Cover the pot (to prevent a skin from forming) and set aside until needed.

COOK THE ZITI MACARONi

  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil and salt it generously. Cook the ziti macaroni until just SHY of al dente. Drain well and transfer into a large bowl, then toss together with 1/3 cup of the cream sauce and shredded cheese, then set aside.

  2. Place a round mould 6" (15 cm) in diameter, or a square mould 5" (13cm) wide inside a NON-STICK skillet and place over medium heat. Add unsalted butter into the mould and whisk in 1/2 tsp of flour as the butter melts. Turn off heat. Then arrange the ziti macaroni inside the mould until it's completely filled up, make sure all the bottom tips are contacting the skillet. If there are any clumps of cheese left in the bowl, pile it on top. Return the skillet to medium-low heat, put a lid on (so the cheese melts properly), and cook until the bottom layer is golden browned and crispy, about 5 minutes. You can check by gently lifting the mound and take a peep.

  3. Invert the ziti macaroni together with the mould onto a warmed plate. Let the surface cool and crispy up for 30 seconds, then remove the mould. Serve immediately with the reserved cream sauce.

  4. This one plate should serve two people. If you want individual servings, you can cook the ziti macaroni in smaller moulds.

Notes:

* This may be the most annoying issue about this recipe, finding "ziti macaroni". We're not talking about elbow macaroni here, but more like penne-size macaroni with square-cut openings instead of slanted, such as this one, or this one, or this one, or this one that is ribbed. But I couldn't find any of these in Hong Kong, and therefore had to resort to buying long uncut ziti, cook them, and cut them into identical segments which is a task I did not enjoy. So if you cannot find this specific type of pasta in the supermarket, I will highly recommend getting it from online sources.