Tomato and Bacon Pasta with Lots of Basil

Overhead shot of a bowl of tomato basil pasta with a silver fork.
3/22/19

My pet peeves include: microwaving leftover roast chicken, overcooked pasta, and recipes that use scant amounts of herbs.

With few exceptions, recipes treat fresh herbs like expensive caviar or fire-hot habanero peppers; like precious, not-to-be-messed with ingredients.

I want you to buy the greenest, most fragrant bunch of basil at the grocery store and use All. Of. It.

Overhead shot of a skillet with tomato basil pasta with a pair of tongs.

Don’t hold back, don’t be afraid, don’t let one of nature’s most delicious herbs go to waste.

And in the spirit of not holding back, let’s add bacon.

Side view of a bowl of tomato basil pasta.

Let’s make Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce

That’s really where this pasta sauce starts: with 4 crispy strips of pork and a glistening pool of rendered bacon fat.

Would you believe me if I said things get even better from here?

Onion, garlic, red pepper flakes and tomato paste join the bacon fat pool party, then sweet, whole tomatoes jump in. Everyone simmers at a low, chill beat while the pasta cooks.

Side view of a pot of boiling water with spaghetti.

Enjoy these next 10 minutes because it’s one of my favorite parts of pasta/sauce making. All the ingredients are in the pot, the house smells amazing, and you have time to relax while dinner comes together.

Let the sauce go for as long or as little as you’d like, depending on where to pause that episode of The Bachelor or finish that glass of wine.

Overhead shot of a bowl of tomato basil pasta with a silver fork.

Once your sauce had reached desired doneness (and Colton has handed out the final rose), you’re ready to add All. The. Herbs.

A cup of basil adds a flurry of fragrant green to the skillet before slinking silkily into the cooked tomatoes like a sleepy head into a soft pillow.

The bacon rejoins the party, along with al dente pasta. Add a final shower of reserved cooking water while vigorously tossing the pasta. This adheres the sauce to the noodles as if they were never meant to be apart.

Side view of a bowl of tomato basil pasta with a silver fork.

Top each portion with lots of freshly grated parmesan cheese, because life is short, and maybe some extra basil to use up the whole pack.

It’s a classic tomato basil pasta sauce gone rogue with unheard of amounts of fresh herbs, and delicious, unheard of results.

Tomato and Bacon Pasta with Lots of Basil

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Serves: 4
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cooking Time: 20 minutes

Crispy strips of bacon, subtly sweet, deep red tomatoes, and tons of basil create my new favorite pasta sauce.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 strips bacon
  • ½ small onion, minced (about ½ cup)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 28 oz can whole, peeled tomatoes
  • 12 ounces bucatini or spaghetti
  • 1 cup basil leaves, packed
  • Parmesan or pecorino cheese, freshly grated (for serving)

Instructions

1

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add bacon and cook until crisp on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Turn off the heat, remove bacon from pan, leaving the fat behind. Chop bacon into small crispy pieces and set aside (try not to snack on them all as you prepare the rest of the recipe).

2

Pour all of the fat from the skillet into a heat-safe measuring cup. Pour ¼ cup fat back into the skillet and heat over medium low. (save the rest of the fat and keep it next to your stove to cook literally anything in).

3

Add onion, garlic, red pepper flakes and a pinch of salt to the skillet; cook, stirring often, until soft, about 3 minutes, making sure that the garlic doesn’t burn. Add the tomato paste and cook until it turns darker red, 2-3 minutes. Take a second to enjoy the smell of onion and garlic caramelizing in bacon fat.

4

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

5

Add the tomatoes to the skillet, crushing them (carefully, they might splatter) with the back of your spoon. Season with salt (about 1 teaspoon) and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook for about 10 minutes, keeping the sauce at a low simmer, until it thickens and tastes as incredible as it smells. If it doesn’t, season with more salt. Stir in the basil and bacon pieces, keep the sauce on very low heat.

6

Cook the pasta 2 minutes less than package directions. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.

7

Add the pasta along with ½ cup of the pasta cooking water to the skillet and toss to coat. Cook 2 minutes, tossing constantly, until pasta water emulsifies into the sauce and sticks to the noodles. If sauce seems dry, add more pasta water and toss, toss, toss. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

8

Remove the skillet from the heat. Top each portion with lots of cheese.

Nutrition

  • 513 Calories

Notes

Almost any red wine will pair well with this sauce. A hearty and rich Cabernet, a strong, bold Chianti or hefty Sangiovese would all work well. If you prefer more mellow reds, try Merlot or Pinot Noir. If you'd prefer white, I'd go with a full-bodied Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio.


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