Thursday, August 20, 2009
CAVATAPPI WITH BACON AND SUMMER VEGETABLES
Since I already have an embarrassment of pasta recipes, I try to be pretty cautious about acquiring new ones, but when I saw this recipe in this month’s Cooking Light, it called out to me. After all, I rationalized, I don’t have any pasta recipes involving corn, and corn is so deliciously in season right now, and besides, mixing in a little bacon is the best way to get A to eat his vegetables. Not to mention that cavatappi happens to be my favorite pasta shape—although ironically, when I went to buy it for this dish I suddenly couldn’t find it at the store and had to use “cellentani,” which looks pretty much the same to me but is maybe slightly smaller. Then when I was boiling the pasta I scooped out one noodle to taste to see if it was done, forgetting that the pasta was hollow and thus full of 212-degree water, which promptly dribbled out of the corner of my mouth and down my chin, leaving me with an actual burn, a perfectly vertical pink line, that stung like the dickens for the rest of the evening and made people wonder for the next day or so if I’d had some sort of rogue lip-gloss incident.
ANYWAY. I had to futz with this recipe a little, since it was part of the “Dinner Tonight” part of the magazine and thus called for silly convenience items like bottled minced garlic and prechopped onion. Also, I doubled the amount of pasta, because I don’t like to have half-boxes of pasta cluttering up my cupboards and I love having a stash of leftovers to eat from all week long. So then I had to figure out what to do with the rest of the quantities. I straight-up doubled the garlic, zucchini, cheese, basil, and salt, because it was easy to do and I like those things. I went with 1½ times the number of bacon slices, because 8 just seemed like a lot and I was planning to have 6 servings of pasta (I actually ended up with more like 7), so one bacon slice per serving seemed reasonable. I also intended to do 1½ times the amount of corn, or 3 ears instead of 2, but my ears must have been honkin’ compared to the ones Cooking Light used, because they called for 1 cup of kernels and I got over 3 cups. So I’m just saying 3 ears of corn. I didn’t increase the onion (because I only had 1 onion) or the tomatoes (because a pint already seemed like a lot), and it was a good thing I didn’t, because when fully assembled, the pasta and sauce barely fit in my big skillet—this is a ton of veggies, and curly pasta takes up a lot of space. But the tomatoes are so good in the finished dish (I’m really loving grape/cherry tomatoes this year for some reason), I’d maybe increase to 1½ pints if I had them available.
ANYWAY. Since it’s basically just bacon, vegetables, and pasta with a few seasonings thrown in, this recipe is pretty flexible, so do whatever you feel like. The online version even says “use whatever veggies you have on hand,” though I’m partial to this particular combo. I know I’ve been using this word a lot, but it’s just so summery! The only thing I’d change next time would be to actually pour a little of the bacon fat out of the pan before adding the onion and garlic; I had a lot of it, and the finished dish was ever-so-slightly on the greasy side. The bacon fat adds wonderful flavor and keeps the dish moist, but I could have done with a bit less—after all, you can always loosen things up with some olive oil or reserved pasta water after you’ve assembled everything if it looks too dry.
ANYWAY. I loved this. I will make it again, probably within a month. I wish I were eating it for lunch today. You should try it, too.
1 pound cavatappi or other curly pasta
6 slices thick-cut bacon, diced
1 large onion, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 medium-large zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into ¼-inch-thick slices
3 medium-large ears fresh corn (remove kernels and discard cobs)
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved if large
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
½ cup chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Cook pasta according to package directions and drain.
2. Meanwhile, cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat 5 minutes or until crisp. Remove bacon from pan with a slotted spoon, reserving drippings in pan. Add onion and garlic to pan; sauté 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add zucchini; cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in corn and tomatoes; cook 5 minutes or until tomatoes begin to break down, stirring occasionally.
3. Add pasta to vegetable mixture; toss. Cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Add ½ cup cheese, bacon, basil, salt, and pepper; toss to combine. Serve sprinkled with remaining cheese.
Time: 40 minutes
Leftover potential: High