B-L-T Pasta

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Back Pocket Pasta, by Colu Henry, shows how a well-stocked kitchen and a few seasonal ingredients can be the driving force behind delicious, simply prepared meals. Pantry staples—a handful of items to help you up your dinner game—give you a head start come 6pm, so you can start cooking in your head on the way home from work. For instance, if you know that you have a tin of anchovies, a hunk of parmesan, and panko bread crumbs, you can pick up fresh kale to make Tuscan Kale "Caesar" Pasta. Or if you have capers, red pepper flakes, and a lemon, you can make Linguine with Quick Chili Oil. With genius flavor combinations, a gorgeous photograph for every recipe, and a smart guide to easy-drinking cocktails and wine, Back Pocket Pasta will inspire you to cook better meals faster.

Colu showed Helen how to make her “BLT Pasta”-see her recipe below.

Join Colu for her free book event Saturday from 12 – 2 pm at Jacobsen Salt Co located at 602 SE Salmon street in Portland.

“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, Chad will fry up some bacon from a local farm in Kinderhook, New York, 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 savory note, balancing the sweetness of the tomatoes and the saltiness of the bacon. SERVES 4

Kosher salt

4 ounces slab bacon, cut into ½-inch dice (see Cook’s Note)

1 tablespoon olive oil

¾ pound mezze rigatoni

1 pound cherry or baby Sun Gold tomatoes, halved (about 3 cups)

Freshly ground black pepper

5 ounces watercress, roughly chopped

Grated Pecorino Romano cheese, for serving

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 2 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 12-inch 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 2 tablespoons fat from the pan.

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

4. Add the tomatoes to the skillet 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 skillet 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.

COOK’S NOTE: 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 grocery-store bacon, and gives you a texture that stands up to the toothsome pasta.