Monday, April 4, 2016

Pasta Marinara with Bacon and Broccoli

I love Broccoli and Bacon together. It's a perfect combination. I had both in my fridge last night, and I'd normally turn it into a salad, but I wanted something heartier. Then I thought, "Pasta!" With the addition of a few pantry staples, I made something that was pretty much a perfect pasta sauce.

Ingredients

  • 6 slices thick-cut bacon
  • 6 cups broccoli chopped into small florets
    • I like to include the stems, sliced very thin, with the florets
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced fine (more if you like it)
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1 can (14 oz) plain tomato sauce
  • 1-2 tablespoons minced fresh basil (or a 1/2 teaspoon dried basil)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili flake
  • kosher salt
  • Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 1 box rotini pasta

Directions

Cook the bacon in a large skillet until crisp. Remove bacon to a plate with paper towels and drain off fat, leaving about 2 tablespoons in the pan and reserving 2 more tablespoons for later. Now would be a good time to start heating a large pot of water to boil the pasta.

Cook the onions in the 2 tablespoons bacon fat left the pan with a large pinch of kosher salt over medium-high heat. When they have started to brown around the edges add the remaining reserved bacon fat, broccoli, pepper, chili flake, and another heavy pinch of kosher salt. Toss together all the ingredients in the pan and cook, stirring frequently, until the broccoli starts to soften (but still slightly crunchy). Add the vinegar, canned tomatoes, and tomato sauce. If you are not using a non-stick skillet, there will probably be some fond on the bottom of the pan you want to scrape up so it incorporates into the sauce. Add the oregano and basil. Simmer in the skillet, uncovered, until the broccoli is cooked.

While the sauce simmers, cook the pasta in the boiling water, adding a 2 tablespoons of kosher salt to the water first. Cook the pasta until it is almost al-dente, but is still just a little underdone. Prior to draining the pasta, reserve a couple of cups of the cooking water. Drain the pasta into a colander, then pour directly into the skillet with the sauce (if your skillet is not large enough, you can put both the pasta and the sauce back into the pasta pot). Finish cooking the pasta in the sauce, adding back some of the reserved cooking water (probably around 1/4 to 1/2 cup) to loosen things up if it's too thick. Serve immediately, either as a main dish, or with sliced grilled chicken breasts. Top with (lots of) Parmesan cheese when serving.

Note on 4/7: I recently read this article on Serious Eats, it's totally helpful for properly cooking/saucing your pasta: http://www.seriouseats.com/2016/02/the-right-way-to-sauce-pasta.html

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