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And just like that, the full force of spring hits us.

We went from chilly, rainy weather to “where did I put my flip flops” weather in the blink of an eye.

This morning I woke to the sound of birds singing and my Italian neighbours, two doors down, discussing the layout of this year’s garden (they’re very loud talkers …).

Wanting to take advantage of the beautiful weather, I decided to take an early-morning walk through the neighbourhood. Almost every house I passed had bags of old leaves and garden waste lined up at the curb, beside neatly stacked piles of trimmed twigs and branches.

A few people I passed were getting an early start on some home improvement projects.

One man was methodically sweeping his driveway clean.

The bocce court at one of our local parks has been cleaned and is ready to go.

I smiled.

Spring has sprung!

Ciao!

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Note: On Saturdays, we usually don’t have a big breakfast. Instead we like to have a nice lunch, usually right at noon, that will tide us over until the evening when we most often go out. While it may seem that baked pasta is a dish for the fall or winter, this is a quick one that I made for a recent Saturday lunch. It’s simple with some very classic flavours. The original recipe calls for ziti but I used tortiglioni instead.

Baked Tortiglioni with Cream and Pancetta
Adapted from On Top of Spaghetti … by Johanne Killeen and George Germon.

1 tbsp. olive oil
1 to 2 slices pancetta (about half an inch thick), chopped up into tiny pieces
1-1/4 cups heavy cream (35% cream)
1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggianio, grated
1/2 cup Pecorinio Romano, grated
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 pound dried pasta (I used tortiglioni)
2 tbsp. unsalted butter

Bring a large pot of water to boil, add salt.

In a skillet, heat the olive oil and add the pancetta. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until the pancetta is golden. Be careful not burn. Remove the pancetta to a plate and reserve the oil and fat in the skillet.

When the water is boiling and you’ve salted it, add the pasta and cook for 6 minutes. Meanwile, heat the oven to 500 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine the cream, salt and pepper. Stir in the pancetta and a tablespoon or two of the oil/fat left in the skillet (flavour flavour flavour!)

Once the pasta has cooked for 6 minutes, drain and immediately add to the cream mixture. Stir well to ensure that the pasta is coated in the cream and cheese.

Pour the mixture into a deep baking dish and bake in the oven for 12 minutes. The pasta should be golden on top and the cream should be bubbling. If it’s not, bake for another 5 minutes and check again.

Remove the pasta from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes to cool slightly. Serve immediately.

Enjoy!