Friday Night Pasta – Spaghetti, Bacon, Arugula, Cheese
The busier I get, the more I crave simplicity. And the busier I get, the more elusive simplicity becomes. It’s time to take charge. While I might not be able to simplify my calendar or clear my work load with the snap of my fingers, and how I wish I could simplify my clothes closet and garage storage with a Bewitching wiggle of my nose – I can at least simplify my dinner. In fact, simple dinners are often the best. Minimal, fresh and light, composed in less than 30 minutes, these dinners do not skimp on flavor, and offer require double portions, because they taste so good. Many Italian recipes fall into this category. This recipe takes inspiration from Cacio e Pepe, the humble Roman dish consisting of pasta, olive oil, cheese and cracked pepper, glistening with reserved pasta water. Of course, since I can at best call myself a sometimes-simplifier, I couldn’t resist throwing in a few more ingredients for good measure. No one will argue with bacon, is my bet.
Spaghetti with Bacon and Arugula
I used spaghetti, because that’s what I had on hand. Bucatini or gemelli would work well, too. Serves 4.
8 ounces thick cut bacon, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup breadcrumbs or Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup plus 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 pound spaghetti
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
2 to 3 cups fresh arugula
Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and fry until crisp and golden. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon bacon fat from the skillet. Add the breadcrumbs, salt and black pepper. Toast over medium heat until golden, about 1 minute. Transfer to a bowl to cool, then add 1/4 cup Parmigiano and stir to blend.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Cook the pasta 1 minute less than package instructions for al dente. Scoop out and reserve 1 cup cooking water and drain the pasta.
Heat the oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and chili flakes and saute until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add 1/2 cup reserved water, the pasta, 1/2 cup Parmesan and the Pecorino to the pan, stirring and tossing constantly to melt the cheese and evenly coat the pasta. (If too thick, add additional water a little at a time to reach desired consistency). Remove from heat. Add the bacon, half of the breadcrumbs, and the arugula; toss to warm through. Serve immediately with remaining breadcrumbs sprinkled over the pasta.