It’s Ramadan. The days are long. Brain cells hardly get enough glucose to function throughout the day. You would think after breaking our fasts in the evening, we get a second wind and can be productive. Not the case here. Usually after iftar, my husband and I try to make the most of the 20 or minutes we have together post-kids-bedtime and pre-taraweeh (nightly prayer). Yet even after he leaves for the masjid, I find myself completely unable to do ANYTHING productive. That includes the dishes. I don’t know why this year’s fasts has left my brain and body completely depleted (any md’s/rn’s/nutrionists feel free to chime in). But my dear friend Amreen has been requesting this recipe from the very first time I made it for her back in college. And I, being the jerk friend that I am, have neglected to share it until now. So, on Friday, with bacon, tomatoes and sidekick Moury in hand, whipped up this old favorite. This recipe is actually from my very first cookbook purchase in high school: Giada’s Everyday Italian. I know I’m always singing Ina’s praises and yes, her show really informed my current culinary outlook. But it all started with Everyday Italian. From Giada, I learned how to make my very first marinara sauce. Shrimp Fra Diavolo. Balsamic Roasted Chicken. Eggplant Caponata. Favorites that I use time and again – and they all come from this book. I can’t say as much for her follow up cookbooks, but this is definitely one I can vouch for. Any Roman reading this will gasp at my bastardization of their beloved Amatriciana sauce – a pancetta/onion/garlic/tomato sauce except with halal beef bacon in place of the pancetta. I’m sorry! This is just the best we can do! The fat from the bacon balances well with the sweetness/acidity of the tomatoes. So you neither feel like you’re eating a really greasy pesto, nor a flat lined marinara (let’s face it, marinara just isn’t that exciting unless doctored up with some crushed red chili flakes).
My old, and I mean old (seriously, friends for 13 years now?), friend Moury was with me in the kitchen. And contrary to our last cooking experience, I wasn’t a total tyrant. She took all these photographs for you guys. And since I haven’t been doing any day time eating, these are the only photographs I could manage for this post. So, bacon and pasta lovers rejoice! The perfect marriage of the two is in this dish.
Recipe from Giada De Laurentiis’ Everyday Italian
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 6 ounces pancetta or slab bacon, diced
- 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves (I used 3), minced
- pinch of dried crushed red pepper flakes (I would go with a generous pinch)
- 1 (28 oz) can tomato purée (I used just over 1.5 lbs fresh tomatoes, blanched then peeled)
- 1/2 tsp salt plus more to taste
- 1/2 tsp black pepper plus more to taste
- 1/2 cup grated Pecorino (I had none, so I just added some julienned basil)
- In a large, heavy skillet heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the bacon or pancetta and cook until the fat is rendered – about 8 minutes. Add the onion and cook for an additional 5 min. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Add the tomatoes, salt and pepper and reduce the heat to medium-low. Allow the sauce to cook, uncovered for 15 minutes. Stir in the cheese (if you have) and salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve with 1 pound of cooked pasta (spaghetti or bucatini).
So I totally changed this some more–I added mushrooms, chopped spinach, shredded carrots, yellow and red bell pepper for a veggie kick, and used shallots instead of onion, and used crushed tomato sauce from the can instead of fresh tomatos. It was super yum.