Bacon-Tomato Pasta with Basil

March 22, 2019

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.

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. Introducing a delicious twist on a classic pasta sauce: tomato and bacon basil pasta. Doesn’t that just sound amazing?

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.

Bacon-Tomato Pasta with Basil

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (8 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
Dinner American
By Samantha Serves: 4
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cooking Time: 20 minutes Total Time: 30 minutes

Crispy bacon, sweet tomatoes, and tons of basil create my new favorite pasta sauce. Perfect with spaghetti, penne, or a hunk of bread.


  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 strips bacon, about 1/4 lb
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped, pressed, or thinly sliced
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 28 oz can whole, peeled tomatoes
  • 1 lb pasta (you can use a short or long shape, whichever you prefer)
  • 1/2 tsp red wine vinegar, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves, torn or thinly sliced (optional)
  • Parmesan or pecorino cheese, freshly grated (for serving)



Heat a large skillet over medium, then add the olive oil. Add bacon and cook until crisp on both sides, 3-4 minutes per side. Turn off the heat and remove the bacon from the pan, leaving the fat behind. Chop it into small crispy pieces and set aside. You can also take this time to cook the entire package of bacon and save the leftovers for BLTs all week. Just be sure to cook the bacon in batches; if you crowd the pan they won't get as crispy.


Turn the heat back to medium. Add the onion and a pinch of salt to the skillet and cook, stirring often, until completely tender and lightly browned, 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and oregano and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and cook until it loosens and turns from deep red to a brighter orange-red, 2-3 minutes.


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


Add the tomatoes to the skillet, crushing them with your hands (carefully, they might splatter) or with the back of your spoon. Swirl about 1/2 cup of water in the empty tomato can to get any sauce stuck to the sides and add that to the skillet as well. Season with a big pinch of salt and pepper and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes, until it thickens. Add a splash more water if needed to reach your desired consistency. Add 1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar and taste the sauce. If it doesn’t taste amazing yet, season with more salt and/or another 1/2 teaspoon vinegar. Stir in the basil, if using, and bacon pieces and keep the sauce on very low heat.


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


Add the pasta along with ½ cup of the pasta cooking water to the skillet and toss to coat (alternatively, you can add the sauce to the empty pot that the pasta was in and toss everything together in there). Cook 2 minutes, tossing constantly, until pasta water emulsifies into the sauce and sauce sticks to the noodles. If the sauce seems dry, add more pasta water and toss, toss, toss. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.


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


  • 513 Calories


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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