This is kind of like carbonara, but with a touch of cheese instead of an egg … and with tomatoes and onions, so really not a carbonara at all. I arrived at it in a bit of an odd way, taking a recipe for ‘Pasta with Roasted Garlic & Tomatoes’, feeling like it was missing something, adding bacon and then tweaking it over and over again until it wasn’t anything like the original anymore. And so here you have the fruits of my experimentation:
[Prep: 5min / Cook: 25min]
– 250g (1/2 lb) of fusilli pasta
– 1 small white onion
– 3 cloves of garlic
– lump of butter
– 200g (7oz) cubed bacon/lardons/pancetta
– dash of salt & ground black pepper
– 125ml (1/2 cup) white wine
– 1/2 400g (14oz) can chopped tomatoes
– 125g (4.5oz) mascarpone
– fresh grated Parmesan – to serve
- Bring a pot of water to a fierce boil and add the pasta. Cook until just al dente – only about 6-8min. Drain and reserve about 125ml (1/2 cup) of the cooking liquid.
- Meanwhile, chop the onion and garlic and toss it into a large wok (yes, a wok) over medium heat with a lump of butter. Cook for about 2 minutes, add the bacon, and cook for about 5 min more, until the onions and bacon start browning. Season with salt and pepper, then add the wine and tomatoes and let it simmer for a couple minutes.
- Turn the heat to low and tip in the pasta and cheese. Top with the reserved cooking water and stir until the pasta is evenly coated and mixed with everything.
- Serve topped with freshly grated Parmesan.
- I’ve seen and tried a lot of recipes lately (including the inspiration for this one) that call for cream or soft cheese. Let me tell you, that has nothing on mascarpone. Whenever possible, go for the ‘real’ stuff – it makes all the difference.
- I almost always use wholewheat pasta. I think it gives a lot more flavor and ‘umph’ than regular pasta, so give it a try.
- You can make it without bacon; you can make it without tomatoes; you can add other cheeses (like Parmesan) to the sauce; you can add fresh or dried herbs … but I like it best this way.
- I snuck a couple pasta method tricks into this one which are worth knowing:
- always cook your pasta al dente (firm), and even less so if you are going to return it to the heat at like this recipe as it will continue to cook and absorb a bit when you put it back in
- cook in a wok, not a saucepan nor a pot – it’s perfect for moving pasta around and coating it in sauce
- when finishing the sauce (especially cream sauces), add that touch of reserved cooking water – there’s a little science behind it, but it really helps the sauce and the pasta come together and helps bind and thicken the sauce better than milk or water – here’s a great article all about it