Bacon and Onion Pasta with Spinach and Currant Salad

We went north last weekend, a small group of colleagues and I.  A. has a lovely, not-so-little cottage in the middle of nowhere.  Well, it’s somewhere of course, but there’s really only one other house visible from hers. That, and lots of north woods scenery. 

It always feels like a true get-away, and to be honest, we don’t do much.  It’s how we like it.  We gossip, we drink wine, we laugh, we walk, we play games and, of course, we eat.  I normally choose the Saturday dinner shift and this year was no different.  Pasta is always a good bet for large groups and picky eaters (neither of which we had this year), but it’s tradition so who am I to mess with that?  Though this recipe is entirely too easy, it’s also entirely satisfying.  Add it to your repertoire and I bet you’ll be craving it, as do I, at the first sign of fall chill.

Adapted from Rachael Ray Magazine

The original recipe calls for bacon but I prefer the spicy flavor of pancetta.  Plus, I can’t seem to make tomato sauce without adding some crushed red pepper for spice.  I included a minimal amount here, but feel free to increase, decrease or leave out all together.

1 box whole wheat rigatoni or penne (I like the Gia Russa brand)

1/3 pound pancetta, chopped

1 large onion, sliced

3 bay leaves

1 28 oz. can crushed San Marzano tomatoes

 1/2 cup white wine or chicken broth

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1/4 cup chopped parsley

grated parmesan cheese, for passing at the table

Boil pasta to al dente in salted water according to package directions.  Make sure to save a 1/2 cup of the pasta water (scoop it with a coffee mug and set aside) before draining.

While the pasta cooks, preheat a large, deep skillet over medium flame and add 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil.   Add the pancetta and cook until crisp and some of the fat renders, about 5 minutes.  Add the sliced onions, the bay leaves, the crushed red pepper and a pinch of salt (the pancetta has plenty already).  Sauté, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until the onions are tender.  Add the wine or broth and cook for another minute.  Add the tomatoes, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for several minutes to allow flavors to combine.  Remove the bay leaves and add the drained pasta to the skillet, along with the 1/2 cup pasta water.  Stir to combine and heat for a couple more minutes.  Garnish with the chopped parsley and serve with plenty of parmesan cheese to pass.

For the salad:

slightly adapted from Bon Appétit magazine

1 bag baby spinach (I usually pull off any stems that are too long)

1/4 cup currants

3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts (350° oven, for about 5-8 minutes)

2 tablespoons balsamic or apple cider vinegar

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

freshly grated parmesan

Mix dressing ingredients in a jar and shake until combined.  Chop the pine nuts and add to the dressing.  Toss with the spinach until coated (I don’t always use all the dressing to avoid sogginess-it keeps nicely in the fridge for leftovers).  Garnish with the currants and the grated parmesan.

The ladies seemed plenty pleased with their pasta and salad this year (even though I forgot to bring bay leaves and the parsley…oops).  And I didn’t slave all afternoon to provide it.  That makes it a perfect vacation dish.

These honey-spiced madeleines, with crystalized ginger, came along for the ride as well.  Nobody seemed to mind.

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About Liza M.

foodie, francophile, Ann Arborite, teacher, bookworm and self-professed latte-lover--come cook with me!
This entry was posted in pasta, salads. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Bacon and Onion Pasta with Spinach and Currant Salad

  1. Wendy says:

    that sounds like a lovely time, all teachers need a break about now! I will be whipping up that pasta dish soon, sounds easy, warm, and filling, just what the doctor ordered;)

  2. Liza M. says:

    Don’t forget the salad! It really complements the flavors and is just as easy. It’s my new favorite, you know me and salads!

  3. Molly says:

    Liza – this looks wonderful! It just might be the perfecgt thing to prepare when my inlaws visit this weekend. I do have a question about the currants though. What should I look for and will I find them easily?

  4. Pingback: Apple and Pear Ginger Cookie Crumble | Provence in Ann Arbor

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