We are in the "dog days" of summer where its too hot to do (or for that matter cook) much of anything. But nevertheless, Doug and I were still hungry. After a quick inventory of the fridge, pantry, and garden, we decided to do something with the dozens of vine-ripened tomatoes we have been accumulating.
This pasta dish is an oldie and definitely a goodie. My girls refer to it as simply "bacon pasta", but in truth, its is sort of an Italian fusion between creamy bacon-flavored Spaghetti Carbonara and spicy and bright Pasta Putanesca. This pasta is a real contradiction, its both hearty and very light and fresh, summery and bright, but with a deep undertone. Yeah yeah yeah... enough of the foodie-speak, its delicious and more importantly easy and comes together in about half an hour. What's that you say? You hate anchovies? Anchovies are delicious so get over it! Don't be scared by the addition of anchovy paste; "fishy" is the last thing this dish is. Because the anchovies are cooked in bacon fat, they disintegrate and add a nutty, salty depth to the bright tomatoes.
This dish can be made in winter too, on those dreary days when you really need a blast of comforting sunshine. All you need to do is substitute good quality canned tomatoes for fresh tomatoes.
Tomato Spaghetti Carbonara
1lb dried spaghetti
6 slices bacon
1/2 tsp dried red pepper flakes
1 tsp anchovy paste
1 medium onion diced
3 cloves minced garlic
3 cups chopped fresh tomatoes (preferably roma); or good quality canned tomatoes
1/4 cup dry vermouth
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
8 fresh basil leaves, chopped
grated parmesan cheese
freshly ground black pepper
Bring a large, covered pot of water to a boil. While water is heating, in a large deep skillet, fry bacon until crisp, remove bacon from fat and drain on paper towels. Add red pepper flakes and anchovy paste to hot bacon fat and cook 30 seconds until anchovy paste is browned and dissolved. Add onion and garlic, saute until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add chopped tomatoes and vermouth and salt, and cook over medium high heat to reduce some of the liquid.
At about this point, your water should be boiling, cook pasta until al dente, and drain. Add pasta to tomato sauce and toss to coat. Crumble bacon into pasta, add olive oil and basil and toss. Let pasta sit 5 minutes to allow pasta to absorb the sauce. Serve with freshly grated parmesan and freshly ground black pepper.