Three back pocket pasta recipes including BLT

BLT (bacon, lettuce, tomato) in pasta form.
BLT (bacon, lettuce, tomato) in pasta form. Photo: Peden + Munk

If you have a well stocked pantry and shop somewhat seasonally, a back pocket pasta is never more than a pot of boiling water away.

"BLT" pasta

In the summer, I eat a tomato sandwich nearly every day. On some days it's simply toasted bread with mayonnaise and thickly cut tomatoes seasoned with big chunks of flaky Maldon salt and a few turns of fresh pepper. On others, [my husband] Chad will fry up some bacon from a local farm then stack the crispy slices atop tomatoes and bitter greens or farm-fresh lettuce for a sandwich that screams summer. I use watercress for this recipe because it wilts well but still maintains great crunch and texture. It also adds a nice savoury note, balancing the sweetness of the tomatoes and the saltiness of the bacon. 

Back Pocket Pasta by Colu Henry.
Back Pocket Pasta by Colu Henry. Photo: Clarkson Potter/Penguin Random House

INGREDIENTS

kosher salt 

115g slab bacon, cut into one-centimetre dice (see tip) 

3 tsp olive oil 

340g mezze rigatoni (short rigatoni)

450g cherry tomatoes, halved (about 3 cups) 

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freshly ground black pepper 

140g watercress, roughly chopped 

grated pecorino romano cheese, to serve

METHOD

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1½ tablespoons of the salt and return to a rolling boil. 

2. While the water comes to a boil, prepare the sauce: Place the bacon and olive oil in a 30cm frying pan (or skillet) over medium-low heat. Cook until the bacon is crisp, stirring occasionally to make sure it does not burn (about 8 minutes). Remove the bacon and set aside. Pour off all but 1½ tablespoons fat from the frypan. 

3. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente according to package directions. 

4. Add the tomatoes to the frypan and cook over medium heat, coating them in the bacon fat. Season with salt and pepper. As the moisture from the tomatoes releases and deglazes the pan, scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Sauté the tomatoes until they are tender and almost melt, about 5 minutes more. Add half of the bacon to the frypan and toss together to combine. 

5. Increase the heat to medium-high. Add the pasta directly to the skillet and toss to coat. Add the watercress and ½ cup pasta water and toss until the watercress wilts, adding ¼ cup more of pasta water (up to 1 cup), as needed to loosen up the sauce. 

6. Plate in bowls, season with salt and pepper, and top with the remaining bacon. Pass the grated pecorino romano at the table. 

Tip: This recipe calls for slab bacon, which is primarily cut from the belly and does not come pre-sliced. This allows you to get a thicker dice than you would from supermarket bacon, and gives you a texture that stands up to the toothsome pasta.

Serves 4

Brown buttered pumpkin pasta bake. Recipe extract from Back Pocket Pasta by Colu Henry. Photography Peden + Munk. Single use only. Good Food only. Not for syndication.

Pasta bake with pumpkin, fontina and sage. Photo: Peden + Munk

Brown buttered pumpkin bake

Looking for an indulgent supper? Combine salty, nutty brown butter with sage and fontina, then add some sweet roasted butternut pumpkin. When the weather starts to dip, this is your welcome-to-autumn plate of goodness, which I've served many times while entertaining at home. It also transports easily, for those days when you're potlucking on the go. 

INGREDIENTS

1 medium butternut pumpkin (about 1.1kg)

1½ tbsp olive oil

1½ tbsp plus 1 tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste

freshly ground black pepper

340g large shell pasta

45g unsalted butter

1 bunch (about 20 leaves) fresh sage, chopped, plus more for garnish

1¾ cups creme fraiche

225g fontina cheese, grated

⅛ tsp freshly grated nutmeg

salt flakes, such as Maldon (optional)

METHOD

1. Preheat the oven to 230C.

2. Peel the pumpkin, then halve lengthwise, scrape out the seeds, and cut into 2½-centimetre pieces. Add to a large bowl, toss with the olive oil and 1 teaspoon of the kosher salt, and season with pepper.

3. Arrange the pumpkin pieces in a single layer on a rimmed baking tray. Roast until the pumpkin is golden in colour and begins to caramelise, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside in a large bowl.

4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1½ tablespoons of the kosher salt and return to a rolling bowl. Add the pasta and cook until al dente according to package directions.

5. While the pasta cooks, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and cook until the butter begins to foam, turns golden in colour, and smells nutty (about 2 minutes). Add the sage leaves and remove from the heat. Pour the brown butter over the pumpkin. Add the creme fraiche and half of the fontina to the pumpkin and gently toss together. Season with the nutmeg and kosher salt and pepper and toss again.

6. When the pasta is done, drain and add to the bowl with the pumpkin mixture. Toss together.

7. Pour the mixture into a 33cm x  22cm baking tin. Top with the rest of the fontina and bake until the pasta is bubbling and the cheese is melted, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with additional sage leaves and a sprinkling of salt flakes.

Serves 6

Bucatini all'Amatriciana-ish

This Roman dish generally calls for guanciale (cured pig jowl), but I like to use pancetta, which is more readily available. If you can't find it, bacon works, too, but will give the sauce a smokier flavour (I've used it in the past with great results). I also opt for red onions as opposed to the brown variety. Their sweetness couples nicely with this spicy, salty sauce, plus their pink colour strewn throughout the sauce makes for vibrant contrast.

INGREDIENTS

kosher salt 

340g bucatini 

3 tsp olive oil 

115g pancetta, cut into one-centimetre dice 

1 small red onion, thinly sliced 

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced 

½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes or chilli flakes 

2 x 400g tins whole San Marzano tomatoes 

freshly ground black pepper 

½ cup chopped flat-leaf (Italian) parsley 

½ cup grated pecorino romano cheese, plus extra to serve

METHOD

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1½ tablespoons of the salt and return to a rolling boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente according to package directions. 

2. While the pasta cooks, prepare the sauce: Heat the oil in a 30cm frying pan (or skillet) over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook until crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove and set aside on a plate lined with a paper towel. Add the onion and cook until it begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook 2 minutes more. 

3. Add the tomatoes to the frypan, crush them with a spatula or the back of a spoon, and stir to combine. Season with salt and black pepper and allow it to simmer while the pasta finishes cooking. 

4. Add the pasta and parsley directly to the frypan and toss to combine, adding ¼ cup of pasta water or more (up to 1 cup), as needed to loosen up the sauce. Add the pecorino romano and toss again. 

5. Plate in bowls and pass pecorino romano at the table, if desired. 

Serves 4

This is an edited extract from Back Pocket Pasta by Colu Henry, published by Clarkson Potter/Penguin Random House, RRP $49.99, photography © Peden + Munk.