My husband set me up for a challenge (sorta) yesterday when I asked what he wanted for dinner.
At this exact moment in time our cupboards are bare and the fridge is practically empty. We are definitely due for a big Costco run this weekend, so I didn’t want to go to the grocery store for just one or two ingredients. I hate wasting time. But he reminded me that we had bacon and joked we could make all 3 lbs. of it. I chuckled. He said to make pasta. I said we didn’t have anything to put into the sauce (we always have a bottle or two for a base sauce to which I add protein and veggies). We agreed we’d throw together some quesadillas for the kids (most times we go without at night — I know, I know, bad habit!). But when I was done texting him, I set out to use said bacon in a pasta dish.
And it just so happened that in the morning I found my leftover roasted bell peppers that I had made for a pizza topping the week before. I was planning on eating them for lunch and had whisked up a quick vinaigrette/marinade in the morning to boost their flavor. But I’m a giver, so I decided to skip those for lunch and instead incorporate them into the pasta dish. Now I was set.
I looked up recipes to see if I was thinking crazy thoughts in combining the two and I also wanted to see what other folks used for their pasta, as I had farfalle, penne rigate and spaghetti on hand. I found a slew of recipes, but most of them used cream or half and half. Now, don’t get me wrong, I LOOOOVE me some creamy pasta sauce. But, remember, I wasn’t going to the store and I didn’t have enough cream for any of the recipes. Plus, it’s always good to make a dish a little on the lighter side sometimes, right?
I finally found a good base recipe from Donna Cooks and worked off that.
What I ended up with was spicy garlicky goodness. I wish I would’ve had more roasted peppers so that we could’ve had leftovers. Next time I will definitely plan for that!
Marinated Roasted Peppers and Bacon Pasta
(Inspired by Pasta with Arugula, Roasted Red Peppers, Bacon and Parmesan from Donna Cooks)
1 lb. bacon (use any type of bacon you’d like — I had Farmer John Classic Premium Bacon on hand)
2 C marinated roasted peppers, chopped (if you want to save time you can use jarred roasted peppers)
3-4 large garlic cloves, minced
2-3 T olive oil
1-2 T balsamic vinegar
1 pkg of pasta (whatever your favorite is, I used spaghetti)
shredded parmesan (grated parm would work, too)
Italian seasoning (you can substitute equal parts dried oregano, basil, thyme, parsley and rosemary)
1 t capers, drained and chopped
cracked black pepper (I always use my handy garlic pepper mill)
crushed red pepper (I used about 1 t in the peppers and about 1 T in the pasta; adjust per your taste)
For the marinated roasted peppers
(You can used jarred roasted peppers if you’d like; do not drain!)
1. Roast your bell peppers (there are different ways to do this — in the oven, on the grill, on a gas stove). I usually cut them in half and throw them skin side out onto a foil-lined baking sheet and then into the oven on broil. But this time I ventured out and placed them on the open flame of my gas stove burner. (Worked like a charm, by the way!)
2. While those are roasting, mix up your marinade: In a small bowl (I’d make it the bowl into which you’ll bathe your peppers to save on dish washing) whisk together:
2 T olive oil
1-2 T balsamic vinegar
2 minced garlic cloves
crushed red pepper
about a teaspoon of Italian seasoning
season with sea salt and cracked black pepper
3. Once the skins turn black all over, throw them into a large Ziplock bag and let cool, about 20 minutes. Remove the outer skin and chop into 1-inch pieces. Throw those bad boys into the marinade and cover. Refrigerate for at least one hour or up to 24 hours. You could easily serve these on their own as a tasty side dish, by the way.
For the pasta
1. Fry bacon and drain, reserving about a teaspoon of bacon fat. (While your bacon is frying, put the water for your pasta on to boil.) Once bacon is cool, chop it up.
2. Once the water is boiling (be sure to add salt to your water — I added two whole peeled cloves cut in half to add some extra flavor as well) cook your pasta according to the directions on the package. Once cooked, drain and reserve about 1/2 C of pasta water. I forgot to do this because I’m an idiot sometimes. Regular water works as well (I was going to try chicken stock, but didn’t want to open an entire container for just 1/2 C).
3. Heat up the bacon fat and add the 3 cloves of minced garlic and crushed red pepper (again, I used about 1 T, yes tablespoon). Cook about 2-3 minutes, until the garlic turns golden brown.
4. Add the marinated roasted peppers (and all the juices — don’t drain them!!) and chopped bacon. Cook about 3 minutes (adding the pasta water as needed to help create a sauce) to heat through.
5. Add your cooked pasta (not the entire amount, I used probably 1/2 the package I cooked) and about 1/4 C parm cheese to the pepper and bacon mixture and stir to incorporate throughout.
6. Once the pasta is coated with all that yummy goodness, transfer to a bowl or plate. Sprinkle some parm, followed by crumbled bacon and torn fresh basil (I used 2 basil leaves per serving; this is miraculous because I kill everything that’s green and neither the hubs nor I expected my basil plant to still be alive and kicking after a week and a half).
Oh, yes. We were in heaven and I was really sad we didn’t have more so I could have seconds (again, I’m a giver and I let the hubs have what was left in the pan).
He usually adds red pepper to everything (or hot sauce), no matter what, before even tasting something. I asked him to wait this one time and take a bite first. Guess what? He didn’t add a single thing to it and wanted more, too (beyond the two servings he gobbled up).
I rarely cook a separate meal for the kiddos, but I didn’t want to augment the spice and had only enough for two servings of the roasted peppers, so I decided to cook one of their faves. Yes, Mac n Cheese, of course. BUT I tricked them and sauteed some mini bell peppers in olive oil, a touch of butter, chopped garlic, onion powder, and salt and pepper. After letting it cool, I pureed it in the food processor and added it to the Mac with 1/4 C parm.
Little man had two helpings. My older girl crumbled bacon on top and devoured it (she eats bell peppers plain). Second child cried and cried and cried because her beloved Mac n Cheese had been violated and didn’t taste the same (she doesn’t like bell peppers all that much, anyway, so I pretty much expected her reaction). She ended up eating her serving, and I was just so happy to get another veggie into the little man’s tummy.
Do you practice trickery to get your kids to eat veggies? I’m lucky that mine actually do a pretty good job. The biggest problem in our house is monotony and the fact that little man is still missing teeth, so the easy raw veggies the two older girls eat are choking hazards for him still.