Strange Bedfellows

Thai meets Italian—“ThaiTalian?” Our first thoughts, what an odd combination—Rotini with Ground Pork and Spicy Peanut Sauce, with its bright, Asian-inspired flavors paired with Italian rotini pasta—but it’s a great choice for holding onto the sauce. And the flavors were amazingly great, much to our initial skepticism.

And because we love spicy, we intended to make a side of Spicy Roasted Broccoli and Snow Peas with a few fresh Thai bird chiles, sambal oelek, minced ginger, garlic and a bit ‘o honey. But when I opened the bag of broccoli florets (which we usually don’t buy bagged), they were in pretty bad shape so into to the compost bucket they went. Instead, Russ wok-fried the snow peas and Thai chiles with some minced garlic and ginger then added a tablespoon of Chili Bean Sauce at the end—an excellent accompaniment!

Because we only had about a tablespoon of crunchy peanut butter on hand, I improvised and made my own with enough smooth peanut butter and finely chopped peanuts to equal the requisite 1/2 cup. This way I even had some of the chopped peanuts leftover to use as a garnish along with chopped cilantro and scallion greens.

Not a pork eater? Try using ground turkey or chicken. To make it low-carb, swap spaghetti squash for the pasta.

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Ingredients

  • Kosher salt
  • 12 oz. rotini (we used gluten-free)
  • 1-1/2 Tbs. Asian sesame oil
  • 5 medium scallions, thinly sliced, whites and greens separated
  • 2 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 3 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 2 Tbs. unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. sambal oelek or other Asian chile paste; more to taste
  • 1 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter, preferably natural
  • 2/3 cup lower-salt chicken broth
  • 1 medium lime, cut into 4 wedges
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the rotini and cook according to package directions until al dente.
  2. Meanwhile, heat a 12-inch heavy-duty skillet over medium heat. Add the oil, then the scallion whites. Cook, stirring, until softened, about 1 minute. Add the ginger and garlic and cook, stirring for 30 seconds.
  3. Crumble in the pork and cook, stirring occasionally, until it loses its pink color, about 5 minutes. Stir in the soy sauce, vinegar, sambal oelek, and sugar and cook until bubbling. Add the peanut butter and stir until incorporated. Pour in the broth, stir well, and bring to a simmer. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water, drain the pasta, and return it to the pot. Stir in the pork mixture and scallion greens. Thin the sauce with the pasta water, if necessary. Divide among plates or bowls, squeeze a lime wedge over each serving, and top with cilantro, if using.

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First sauté the scallion whites, ginger and garlic before adding the meat.

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Browning the meat with the garlic, ginger and scallion whites.

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Adding the peanut butter to the meat mixture.

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What the final sauce looks like before adding the pasta. We didn’t feel the need to thin with pasta water.

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Stir-fried snow peas before the chili bean sauce was added.

by Bruce Weinstein, Mark Scarbrough from Fine Cooking

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