Bacon: Is There Anything It Can’t Do?

Prior to SteelyKid’s arrival, the “Pasta with Butter, Sage, and Parmesan” recipe from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything had become one of our staple recipes. It’s dead simple to make, we always have the stuff on hand (I’ve been planting sage in pots outside for the last couple of years), and it’s very tasty.

Unfortunately, SteelyKid reacts badly to dairy, even when Kate’s the one eating the dairy. So, parmesan is right out, along with many, many other favorite foods. In an effort to preserve the sanity of the adults in the house, I’ve been trying to find ways to expand our repertoire of entrees, and kept trying to think of some replacement for that dish. It’s easy to get part of the way there– you can replace the butter with olive oil, and keep the sage– but finding a substitute for the parmesan is tough.

The solution (or a solution, anyway) turns out to be bacon. Here’s the fairly successful improvised recipe from the other night:

8oz. thick cut bacon, cut into small pieces
1 smallish zucchini, diced
1 smallish yellow squash, diced
0.5 cup olive oil
1 handful sage, chopped fine
1 lb pasta (I used spaghetti rigate, because that’s what I happened to grab at the store)

Put a big pot of water on to boil.

Fry the bacon in a pan over medium-high heat until the desired crispness is reached (5-10 minutes). Remove it from the pan, and let it dry on paper towels.

Fry the vegetables in the fat from the bacon until done (about 5 minutes). Remove them from the pan, and toss with the bacon.

Dump out the bacon fat, and replace with oilve oil and sage. Heat over low heat while the pasta is cooking.

When the pasta is done, mix the bacon and squash with the oil and sage, and toss the whole mess with the pasta. Serve immediately.

This was pretty much a shot in the dark, but it came out really well. It’s a little more involved than the Bittman recipe, but pasta with just bacon and oil would be really weird. Squash and zucchini have proven to be safe vegetables, and don’t have a huge amount of flavor on their own, so I figured why not?

I suppose if you were feeling weirdly health conscious, you could fry the vegetables in something other than the bacon fat. But, really, if you were feeling health conscious, why would you be making this in the first place?

I doubt very much that I’m the first person to think of this (the idea came when I flipped past “spaghetti carbonara” when looking for SteelyKid-safe pasta recipes), but I can’t be bothered to look to see if this has an actual name.

Obligatory ingredient notes: the vegetables were from Hannaford, in the organic section, not so much because of any deep commitment to organic farming as because they looked better than the non-organic versions. The bacon was just regular Oscar Meyer bacon, albeit the thick cut kind. If I’m feeling snooty the next time I want to make this, I might try buying bacon from one of the stands at the local farmer’s market, which would probably have a stronger flavor (and also be three times the price).