Friday, October 1, 2010

Two Things I Like About You, Part One

In my own little world, bacon doesn't come from something that walks on 4 legs. It doesn't lives in pens and it isn't pumped full of hormones to make it so darn tasty.  It is its own separate entity, living out its free-range, fully organic, free-trade, kissed-and-hugged every day life.  It has equality of sexes, full voting rights, universal health care, free first-rate education and generous PTO.  Slaughtering is voluntary, humane, fully anesthetized, with last rights and hymns of choice.  It is the fabulous lifestyle of the bacon that makes it so good.  I'm sure of it.

Bacon, really, is magic.

The Italians were the first to figure this out. Eaten on it's own, awesomely indulgent. But combined with just a few simple ingredients and you have an amazing meal.  A hearty, savory, filling meal. 

We Americans have grown stale to the magic of bacon, I think, due to its overuse.  We put bacon in and on everything! It's fatty goodness draws us in and sells.  Over-the-top taste at bargain prices.  It is all too much.

However, scaled back to the simplest of ingredients, the bare minimum of indulgence, it can be the shining 'star of the show' in a fairly healthy family meal.  This recipe (surprise) came from the Cooks Illustrated International Recipes Cookbook, and originally calls for pancetta.  While, it must be one amazing meal with pancetta, I don't regularly have pancetta in my fridge.  What I do have is H.E.B. Thick-Cut Bacon (a Texas grocery store brand), so that is what I use.

What I love about this recipe is that I almost always have the ingredients on hand.  It is so quick and easy to make, and with the addition of Whole Grain Pasta (the second thing I like about this meal), what is not to love? 

Notice, there is no garlic in this recipe.  I didn't even know there was an Italian recipe without garlic!  It does have a whole onion, though. I am not a huge fan of onion, but it works in this recipe.  So, give it a try, even if you are pretty onion phobic!

Pasta with Tomatoes, Bacon and Onion (Pasta all'Amatriciana)
*serves 4 with leftovers

6oz thick-sliced bacon, cut into 1/4 wide strips
1 medium onion, minced
1/8-1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 (28oz) can whole tomatoes, tomatoes diced and juices reserved
1 box whole grain pasta, linguine or thick spaghetti
1 oz pecorino-romano cheese, with more for serving

Bring water to boil for pasta

Meanwhile, heat large skillet over medium heat and add bacon.  Cook until crisp, removing bacon to paper towel-lined plate.  Discard all but 4tbl of fat in the skillet (adding olive oil to supplement).

Add onion and 1/4 tsp salt to the pan and cook slowly over medium heat until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir in tomatoes and their juice and simmer until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.  Set aside and cover to keep warm.

Stir pasta and 1tbl salt into boiling water and cook until al dente.  RESERVE 1 CUP PASTA WATER, then drain.  Add pasta and 1/3 cup pasta water, cooked bacon and cheese to sauce and stir to combine. Add additional pasta water to pasta as needed to loosen sauce.

Serve with additional cheese.

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