As soon as I saw the bacon in the fridge, I knew I had to make something with it besides the stereotypical bacon-and-eggs breakfast. Fortunately for me, this month’s Food Network magazine had a little recipe booklet nestled inside called “50 Things to Make with Bacon.” Number 18 on the list was BLT Pasta—something that I’m sure the newest winner of The Next Food Network Star, Jeff Mauro, host of The Sandwich King, would appreciate—and I thought it sounded like the perfect use for that salty bacon staring back at me from the fridge. Juicy grape tomatoes, crisp red onion, wilted arugula, and of course bacon, all tossed with pasta makes for a summery, but filling dish. Oh, and did I mention the tomatoes and red onion are cooked in bacon fat? As some of my sorority sisters are fond of saying (quoting a famous Wife Swap moment), “Bacon is good for you!”—okay, so maybe it’s not, but it’s definitely delicious.
Prep. time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
- 8 slices bacon, cooked then chopped
- 1 red onion,chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, sliced
- Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste (don’t be heavy-handed, unless you want a spicy dish)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 5 cups grape tomatoes
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 12 oz. penne pasta (I used mostaccioli, which looks like penne without ridges)
- 4 cups arugula
- Basil leaves
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add the penne. Follow the package for cooking times (about 11 minutes), then drain. In the meantime, cook the bacon slices in a large skillet. Remove once crispy and lay out on a paper towel to soak up some of the grease. Save 3 tbsp. of the bacon fat/drippings in the skillet. Add the red onion, garlic, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to the skillet and cook until slightly tender. Add the grape tomatoes and cook for 12 minutes. In the skillet with the tomatoes and onion, add the heavy cream and cook for 2 minutes. Toss the mixture with the penne, arugula, and basil. Serve topped with Parmesan cheese.
(Side note: I used about 10 oz. pasta, 3 pints grape tomatoes, and 3-5 oz. arugula, since I’m only feeding three people, and it worked out just as well)
This dish is both light and rich—the plump grape tomatoes and bitter arugula add brightness while the bacon fat blended with cream creates a rich creaminess in the dish. The freshly cooked crispy bacon is so much better than any imitation salad bar bacon-in-a-jar could be and adds a nice crunch. To be completely honest, I don’t even like BLT sandwiches, because I’m not a big fan of raw tomatoes, but this dish reinvents the sandwich and makes it worth the few pounds you’ll gain eating the bacon fat.