And it's true! I mean, name one time where you had some bacon and then you wished you hadn't had it. Impossible, right? Right. I'm not saying we should be brushing our teeth with bacon or that is holds the secret to all our success, but as far as cooking goes, the lazy chef can always just top their dish with crumbled bacon, and brava. So you can imagine my excitement when I discovered a recipe wherein you mix bacon with pasta. Pasta! One of my favorite foods even without the added sweetness of charred pig fat.
Pasta alla gricia is a traditional Italian dish that combines pasta, cheese, garlic, and pancetta bacon or guanciale (Wikipedia sez: these are smoked bacons, made from pork belly and jowls, respectively). It is delicious, cooks up beautifully, and tastes amazing--the gently-fried pasta mixes nicely with the crispy crunchy bacon, while the fresh pepper adds a nice kick and the cheese balances out the sharpness of the flavors. I've used prosciutto, regular bacon, and turkey bacon in lieu of pancetta or guanciale, to mixed effect. The prosciutto didn't have a strong enough flavor, the regular bacon tasted great but was a little too greasy, while the turkey bacon worked surprisingly well--frying up with minimal grease but a nice flavor. I used to whip it up regularly, although in my opinion it's more of a summer fare (I last made it for a romantic dinner with Evie where we sat in Central Park and watched Moonstruck).
Still, even typing this up has me dreaming about cheesy bacony pasta-y deliciousness...
PASTA ALLA GRICIA
1 pound bucatini or rigatoni
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves crushed garlic
6 ounces guanciale, in 1-inch slivers 1/4-inch thick (can substitute regular or turkey bacon)
Freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup grated aged pecorino cheese, more for serving.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add bucatini or rigatoni.
Place a 12-inch skillet over medium heat, add olive oil, crushed garlic, and bacon.
Cook until garlic turns golden brown.
Remove from heat and remove garlic.
When pasta is al dente, drain it, reserving 1 cup pasta water.
Transfer pasta to skillet, place over medium-low heat and toss with bacon and garlic.
Season with salt and generously with pepper; fold in about half the pasta water and the cheese. Toss, adding more pasta water as needed to help cheese coat pasta.
Check seasoning and serve, with more cheese on the side.