Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Go-to Dinner: Pasta With Peas and Bacon

My ultimate standby recipe is pasta with bacon, peas, Parmesan, and garlic, a quick, easy, and wholly satisfying meal consisting of ingredients I usually have on hand.

I always thought of this as one of those dishes you want to make when you stumble home late and need something in your stomach to stave off a hangover. But then I made it for my friends' family, who include a 5- and a 2-year-old as well as a picky dad, and they all loved it -- so it appears it’s very family-friendly as well. To put it another way, it's so quick and easy that either a drunk or a parent of small children can manage it.

The main ingredients in this dish, pasta and frozen peas (get the peas in bags, not boxes, so you can control the amount you use at a time), are two items I recommend always having in your cupboard and freezer respectively -- they're wicked cheap, cheaper still if you stock up when they're on sale; they will not go bad; and together, they will ensure that you never have nothing in the house to eat. As for bacon, I recommend also always having a package in the fridge, but that's between you and your God and/or cardiologist.

Boil a covered pot of salted water for the pasta, between half a box to a box. (A long variety like spaghetti, linguine, etc., is recommended, but you could do penne or ziti.)

Fry the bacon in a sauté pan over medium heat. You want it to get a nice red-brown but not crispy. Drain it on a paper bag or paper towels, and drain most of the grease from the pan, leaving the last bit with yummy brown drippings. (If you don't eat bacon, you can skip this step or, I guess, use turkey bacon.)

Turn the burner heat down to low. Throw a couple pats of butter into the bacony pan, and add a chopped onion if you have it and/or a few chopped cloves of garlic. Let these get soft and if the pasta's not ready, turn the burner off. (Cardinal rule: The sauce should always wait for the pasta, never the pasta for the sauce.)

Here's the genius part: Once the pasta is in the water and a minute or two away from done, throw in about half a bag of frozen peas. (Twist the top of the bag and put the rest back in the freezer.) You can then drain the pasta and peas together.

Toss the pasta and peas into the sauce and mix. Crumble the bacon, stir it in, salt and pepper to taste, and serve with Parmesan (another ingredient I recommend always having in the fridge) for grating. Boom -- you've got a quick meal whether it's 5 PM and the kids are about to pass out or it's 2 AM and you're about to pass out.

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