Monday, May 18, 2009

Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato Bucatini

Now that I am feeling more like being outside and working in the garden, flower beds, etc. I have found myself, a few times this week, totally surprised when Jack will suddenly appear beside me and say “it’s six o’clock, when’s dinner?”. To which I think “what’s for dinner?” but, attempting to appear as though I can do it all, I will reply that we will eat in an hour. He goes back to his office, apparently satisfied with the answer, and I start to rack my brain for really quick meal ideas as I try to straighten up and walk normally.

Of course, pasta is always an option. Cuisine at Home’s recipe, Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato Bucatini, is one of our favorites and a welcome step up from the usual spaghetti with red sauce. I had a leek, a bag of spinach, and grape tomatoes on hand, so this was an easy choice for dinner that evening.

The finished dish is topped with garlic bread crumbs, which does add a very nice finishing touch, but sometimes I am in too much of a hurry to bother. This time I did make it because I had bought a French baguette the other day while in the Strip District. I also bought, at the huge Italian grocery store, a bag of bucatini. I had always made this recipe with spaghetti before, and this time I was able to prepare it with that specialty pasta. Bucatini is a very thick, hollow spaghetti, and I subsequently found it to be a little difficult to “twirl” on a fork, but that may have been because I am used to the thin or regular-thickness spaghetti. It also did not come in a whole wheat version (surprise, surprise), and Jack was pleased to get “real pasta” at this meal.

Anyway, the bread crumbs are made first and set aside. Once the ingredients are prepped, this takes only a few minutes to put together.

I used turkey bacon. I found a wonderful brand, Kutztown, at Sam’s Club. It is thick-sliced and has a good smoky taste; other turkey bacon seems to be very thinly sliced and I find that it burns quickly.

(Note: as of early 2010, this same bacon is now being sold under Sam's Club "Member's Mark" brand. Same great turkey bacon, it reminds me somewhat of Canadian bacon).

The bacon is cooked and chopped and set aside, the tomatoes and leeks are sautéed, wine and broth added, then the last step is adding spinach (not lettuce!), fresh thyme, and the bucatini. Now, the tricky part in this is having the pasta done just as the rest of the dish is cooked, and transfer the pasta directly from the pot to the sauce without draining. This allows some of the pasta water to be transferred along with the pasta itself, adding needed moisture and a little starch to build the sauce up a bit.

I find that putting the water on to boil before you even make the crumbs is the best way to ensure that the pasta is ready when you need it to be (if it comes to a rolling boil and you aren’t ready to put the pasta in it yet, turn it down to a simmer and partially cover. It will then take about 30 seconds to come back to a boil when you need it). Bucatini takes about 10 minutes to cook, so if you put the pasta in the water just before you add the leeks to the tomatoes, it should be ready when needed.

Jack is always surprised that there is no cheese grated on top, but then always mentions that the dish is so flavorful that it doesn’t need the cheese. And I agree.

* Exported from MasterCook *

Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato Bucatini

Recipe By : Cuisine At Home

Servings : 2

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

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3 teaspoons olive oil -- divided

1 medium garlic clove

1 ounce French baguette slice

2 pieces turkey bacon

1 cup grape tomatoes -- halved

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 cup leeks -- white and light green parts thinly sliced

1/4 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

4 ounces spaghetti -- (bucatini)

1 cup baby spinach leaves

1/4 teaspoon minced fresh thyme

Set a large pot of water on to boil.

Mince the garlic in a food processor, add the cubed bread, and process until coarse. Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat, add crumbs and toast, stirring often, until golden. Remove crumbs to a plate, season with salt and pepper, and set as1de.

Drizzle 1 teaspoon of the oil into the pan and add the bacon. Cook until crisp, pat off excess fat on paper towels, chop, and set aside.

Drizzle the final teaspoon of oil into the skillet, place over medium heat, and caramelize the tomatoes and sugar until the tomatoes begin to brown (about 4 minutes). * Add the leeks and sauté for another 4 minutes until the leeks are wilted.

*As you add the leeks to the tomatoes, also put the bucatini into the boiling water to start to cook.

Deglaze the tomato mixture with the wine, and simmer until it is nearly evaporated. Add the broth, vinegar, and pepper flakes and simmer until reduced by 1/3, about 5 minutes. Add the spinach and thyme, stir, then add the bacon pieces and transfer the cooked pasta from the water directly into the pan. Toss to coat, season with salt and pepper, and divide between 2 plates. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and serve.

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Per serving: 411 Calories (kcal); 12g Total Fat (3g Saturated); (26% calories from fat); 15g Protein; 60g Carbohydrate; 12mg Cholesterol; 310mg Sodium

Food Exchanges: 3 1/2 Grain(Starch); 1/2 Lean Meat; 2 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates