This recipe is very loosely inspired by Sarah Graham's Why-he-married-me Bacon Pasta recipe, which I read as a teen. It had a lasting impact on me because I realised that I could seduce someone into loving me with little more than a punnet of tomatoes and a packet of bacon. Delicious and cheap? That sounds just like me!
Seeing as I am still unmarried (fools), I'm calling my version of this dish Very Sexy Bacon & Tomato Pasta. The purpose of the title is twofold: it describes both the pasta itself (indulgent, rich, salty) and the chef because - and I guarantee this - anybody who can cook and serve this dish is a perfect ten.
Let's get into it, then!
What you'll need:
A punnet of fresh Romanita or cherry tomatoes - anything small, roundish, and firm will do (ooh, la la!)
A generous whack of freshly minced garlic
A packet of good-quality streaky bacon
Pasta (I used spaghetti because it's the last week before payday)
A knob of butter
Some fresh parsley for a bit of zing
How to make it
I maintain that the reason this recipe turns out so well is that I reduce the fresh tomatoes in bacon fat in a cast-iron casserole dish. I'm well aware that not everybody has a cast-iron casserole dish, owing to their considerable expense. I'm confident that the recipe would still turn out great in a normie thick-bottomed pot. You might just have to cook it a bit longer on low heat.
Step One: Prep your kak
I won't say it again! Prep your meez to up the ease. Mince your garlic, dice your tomatoes (that means slice them into four with a criss-cross action), chop your bacon into bits, and put a pot of salted water on the boil for your pasta.
My diced tomatoes, for reference.
Step Two: Cook your bacon
First, put your pasta in your now-boiling water to cook according to packet instructions.
Now, chuck your chopped bacon into your pot with a smear of butter to help it along. You can cook the bacon on medium heat. As I said in my last recipe for Fancy French Toast, there is quite a lot of water in bacon that you need to cook off before the fat starts rendering out of it and the meat becomes browned and crispy.
This is the cornerstone of the entire recipe, really. No pressure. But if that lovely fat doesn't render out of the bacon before you add your tomatoes, you're not going to impart that smokey, salty flavour into your sauce and your love life will be ruined forever.
Just kidding! The only thing that should be taken seriously in the kitchen is health and safety. Everything else is for laughs.
Anyway, you're going to cook that bacon down until it's released some fat into the pot and the meat itself is turning brown and crispy. There might be some hissing and spitting - that's fine, just keep your distance and occasionally stir to stop it from burning.
The bacon is not yet done in this photo, but you can see some of that bacon fat starting to pool in the bottom of the pan, along with some browning on the enamel. This is good! We want this brown stuff! It's called a fond, and it's the base of our flavoursome tomato sauce.
Step Three: The tomato sauce
Once the bacon is crispy, take it out of the pot with some tongs or a slotted spoon so that you leave as much of the liquid fat in the pot as possible. Keep it aside while you cook down your tomatoes.
Now is probably a good time to check on your pasta. Reserve a splash of pasta water for the sauce!
First, turn down the heat. Way down. We're cooking the tomatoes on low and slow, baby. When the pot has had a chance to cool a bit, chuck in your garlic. It's important to do this after you've cooked the bacon so that it doesn't burn. It should soften nicely on low heat.
Once the garlic is fragrant, chuck in your tomatoes. If you're using an enamel-coated cast-iron pot like I did, you'll see how quickly and how easily that brown fond from the bacon lifts and incorporates into the tomato juices. Cooking science is amazing!
Leave the tomatoes on low heat with a lid on, leaving a crack open for the steam to escape. The longer you cook them the better, but 25-20 minutes should do the trick. Stir occasionally to help break down the tomatoes into a beautiful, jammy consistency.
Look, I'm sorry about the pictures. The steam kept fogging up the camera lens, it was a disaster. But it did smell very good.
Step Four: Incorporate it all into one very sexy bowl
Mmmm. Smell that! That's a banging tomato sauce if I ever smelled one. Once the tomatoes are reduced into a rich, salty, smokey sauce, you can chuck your cooked bacon back into the pot to warm up before serving. If the sauce is a bit lumpy, now is the time to add a spoonful of pasta water (one at a time) to loosen it up a bit.
Now is also the time to drain your pasta and introduce it to your other ingredients in the pot, which should still be on low heat just to bring everything to the same temperature. When everyone is a little hot under the collar, it's time to plate and serve with some chopped parsley.
Light some candles. Put on a jazz record. Serve this very sexy bacon and tomato pasta to your latest romantic pursuit. You can thank me in the morning.