Monday, January 18, 2010

BLT Pasta

I love BLTs and I love pasta, so when I saw that a recipe existed for BLT pasta, I knew this would be up my alley.  Speaking of which, where does the phrase "up my alley" come from.  Last I checked, most alleys I've seen are kind of frightening, so things "up my alley" would be dumpsters and rats.  Sorry, back to less gross topics...

I've been making BLT pasta for two or three years now.  I grew up eating spaghetti carbonara; it was my favorite meal that my mom made.  Still probably is.  So basically my relationship with bacon in pasta goes back as long as I can remember.  Yes, it's too bad this cherished relationship isn't a love for beets and cabbage, but so be it.  I've never been able to recreate my mom's spaghetti carbonara, so I had to find another bacon pasta dish to get my fix.  BLT pasta also has the benefit of getting you to eat some arugula, which doesn't happen all that often.  But let's be honest, it's mostly about the bacon for me.

I am officially a thick-cut bacon convert.  It really is just so much better than the thin slices.  Start by placing 6-8 slices of bacon on a rimmed baking sheet.  Make sure it is rimmed because you'll be collecting a ton of bacon grease.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, until perfectly browned and cooked. 

Cook 1/2 pound of pasta (for two people) in boiling salted water.  You can use penne or spaghetti.  Or really anything you desire.

And now to the T portion of the meal, grape tomatoes.  I find grape tomatoes to be much sweeter than cherry tomatoes most of the time, so I recommend using these.  For two people you will use about half a pint. 

Cut your tomatoes in half.  Okay looking at this picture makes me think I used more than half a pint.  I like a lot of tomatoes, what can I say.

In a pan heated over a medium flame, heat a tablespoon of olive oil and add in all your tomatoes. 

Cook you tomatoes 5-7 minutes, until their juices start escaping, but before they completely lose their shape.

Add your cooked tomatoes to your cooked pasta.

You can use either arugula or spinach in the recipe.  Spinach has a milder flavor, though arugula adds a peppery tone to the dish, which I like.  Because the greens cook down so much you should use more than you think you will need. 

Add about 3.5 ounces of arugula to the same pan you cooked your tomatoes in - but do not wipe down the pan.  You want the excess oil and juices to coat the greens. 

Cook for 1-2 minutes until the green start to wilt but aren't completely massacred.  Use a spoon to mix them constantly so that they wilt evenly.

Add your arugula to the pasta and tomatoes and mix well to combine. 

This dish would be pretty healthy if you just left it like this.  But why would you want to do that when you could add bacon?

Your whole house smells like bacon at this point and you will be thanking your lucky stars that it's almost time for dinner.  Cooking the bacon on a sheet pan means you don't have to tend to it at all, it crisps well, and it cooks evenly.  I highly recommend this method.

Take a few slices of bacon and cut them into 1/2 inch strips.  Feel free to snack on a few since you made lots of bacon anyway.  It's a cook's right I think.

Add the bacon into the pasta and mix thoroughly.  It is best to do this somewhere other than the plates you'll be eating from - much less messy and much better mixing.  Add some kosher salt and black pepper for extra flavor.

We ended up with more toppings and less pasta than I sometimes have, but that suited me just fine.  Mostly I just want ample bacon so that I can have some bacon in almost every bite.  I made BLT pasta for my parents once, and apparently they've started making it at home too.  If you prefer, you can add chopped onions and garlic to the mix, though I prefer the unadulterated BLT-ness of the original version.  Now aren't you glad you have an excuse to have BLTs for dinner now too?

BLT Pasta
Adapted from Real Simple
Serves 2

1/2 pound spaghetti or penne pasta
6-8 slices thick-cut bacon
3.5 oz arugula
1/2 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt
Black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place bacon in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes until browned.  Meanwhile, cook 1/2 pound spaghetti or penne in salted boiling water.  In a medium-sized saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.  Add in 1/2 pint of halved grape tomatoes and cook 5-7 minutes.  Add cooked tomatoes to cooked, drained pasta.  Add 3.5 ounces of arugula to the same pan the tomatoes were cooked in (do not wipe clean).  Cook the arugula 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly, until it wilts slightly.  Add to pasta and tomatoes and mix until thoroughly combined.  When bacon is cooked, remove from pan and cut into 1/2 inch pieces.  Add bacon to pasta, sprinkle with kosher salt and black pepper, and mix thoroughly. 

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