Rachel's recipes: Tomato cream pasta with smoked bacon
Warning: this dish can engender serious feelings of satisfaction and well being.
Cream and tomatoes along with cream and roasted red peppers make dreamy, greedily good comfort food. Think cream of tomato soup, roast red pepper and smoked paprika cream, light and fluffy roast red pepper flan and (yes) cream of tomato ice cream with basil sauce.
Now this particular recipe evolved from a surfeit of post ganache making "sweet cream", a small container of roast tomato sauce in the freezer and a sad looking piece of smoked bacon lurking at the back of the fridge. It was also the day of yet more gruesome dental treatment. Creamy, carbo comfort food was never more deserved.
The disaster of my local supermarket no longer selling real parmesan but instead dubious plastic sachets of ready grated flavoured sawdust was mitigated by finding a piece of manchego (at least this hasn't been processed into twice the price per kilo powder yet). I thought "Hola! - un poco excuse to play around with some of my precious smoked paprika". The final serendipitous addition was the bright orange coloured children’s pasta bought by mistake. Of course I wanted to make home made pasta flavoured with carrot or pumpkin puree; really, I did.
The basic idea here is: half thick cream and half a tomato sauce that is not over acidic (curdled cream is not a good thing). So do use a good sauce and do reduce it down first. If it does curdle don't panic - you can rescue it by adding a tablespoon of corn flour / corn starch mushed into milk and simmer it. It won't quite be the same but it will be edible.
Cook your pasta of choice and mix the sauce through. Here I fried the bacon pieces and sprinkled them on top with the cheese. I had some good basil lying around and thought I would throw some on. You can also add the cheese into the sauce but I like the contrast between the sauce and the cheese - up to you.
This is really one of those recipes where quantities do not matter overly (except the cream and tomato ratio). Here is what I think makes a four person serving with the pasta coated not swimming in sauce.
1 onion cut up finely
Smoked paprika (hot or sweet as you prefer)
2- 4 cloves garlic, minced
Approx 500ml of tomato sauce (reduce it down so its equal in volume to the cream)
300ml double cream (32%) or “smantana dulce”.
150-200g of smoked bacon/ham that has a bit of fat on it (if you want to impress, then crisp up some prosciutto or “jambon crud uscat” but personally I think it’s a shame to destroy the creamy smooth texture which makes these cured hams so special)
Grated Parmesan or other mature cheese that you like like manchego or pecorino
400g dry pasta
A glug of martini or if you can find it “noilly prat”
Gadgets & Gismos
A frying pan or two. A saucepan to cook pasta in. No special kit required really.
Fry the onion and garlic gently until transparent. Add 1 teaspoon of the smoked paprika and stir it gently. Add a slug of the martini until the alcohol has evaporated off. Add your tomato sauce, pepper and salt and if you think the sauce is a bit acidic add a spoon of sugar. Simmer gently until it is reduced almost half – approx 15-20 minutes.
Meanwhile…cook pasta according to the instructions on the pack. The children’s carrot and squash only takes 6 minutes – an infantile attention span that I could identify with. Drain the pasta and watch it doesn’t glue itself together.
Cut the bacon into small pieces and fry gently until crispy. Allow enough to keep stealing bits of bacon out of the pan as they cook.
Add the cream to the reduced tomato sauce and when it bubbles through remove from the heat and stir in the pasta gently with a fork. Add cheese into the pasta or reserve and serve on top of the pasta. Sprinkle crispy bacon and torn basil leaves on top artistically. Smile a big smug “I so deserve this” smile! :)
Serve with a green salad or as I did an orange cherry tomato salad because I saw them in the market and threw all thoughts of colour, taste and texture balance to the wind. We drank supermarket brand beer that was very cold (it's August) but a rustic red in winter would be very good too.
By Rachel Sargent, Guest Writer
Rachel Sargent is the chef and owner of the London Street Bakery, which offers healthy seasonal food. More about it here.
(photo credits: Rachel Sargent)