This is a recipe born of two incomplete memories:
I knew my Italian friend prepared a pasta dish like risotto, adding hot broth gradually to dry pasta until it was cooked, but I didn’t remember what pasta shape or anything else.
Also, I had seen Steve Johnson from Rendezvous Restaurant in Central Square toast orrechiette for his braised pork and veal meatballs http://food.gloucestertimes.com/category/?showid=28, but he did it after the pasta cooked in water, something I had tried but always ended up with gummy, sticky little ears instead of Johnson’s brown and crispy ones.
Mixing memories and efforts, I recently looked at a bag of orrechiette, and started a pot of chicken broth simmering. Then I heated the large saute pan in which I usually prepare risotto.
When the pan was hot, I added a few tablespoons of olive oil, enough to cover the bottom of the pan. When the oil shimmered, I poured in the dry pasta, letting the little caps get brown and toasted, almost burned on the edges. Then I began adding the hot broth, two ladles at a time.
I’d planned to do something with some of the fresh corn on my counter and the small shitake mushrooms I’d bought at Willowrest, so, in they went, along with salt and pepper, just before the pasta was finished, allowing all the flavors to cook together in the last additions of broth.
The orrechiette took on the liquid beautifully; I just kept adding it until the pasta, when checked, tasted al dente. With that initial sear in oil, the finished, toasted little ears shimmered with the corn and shitakes, a plate of umbers and ochres, already so infused with richness from the broth they needed nothing more than the last tablespoons of this summer’s pesto.