There it was, in the pan, ready to eat. A big panful of fusilli, coated in a sauce I’d improvised with bacon, red chile flakes, tomato paste and a can of tomatoes. I’d let the sauce cook down until it was nice and thick and then boiled the fusilli until just al dente, lifting it with a spider into the pan of red sauce. I stirred it all around, ready to grate on a traditional cheese like Parmesan or Pecorino, when I had a vision.
The vision was inspired by this tomato soup, a soup that many of you love, a spicy tomato soup that has, as a featured ingredient, blue cheese stirred into it. There, in that soup, the blue cheese lends the spicy tomato puree a creamy funk. And that’s what my fusilli needed, said the vision. It needed some funk!
And that’s when I piled on the blue cheese (sorry for the blurry picture):
I stirred it all in and nervously tasted and WHAM POW… this fusilli had the funk! Between the heat from the chilis, the smokiness of the bacon, the sweetness of the tomatoes and then the funk from the blue cheese, I’d dreamed up a pretty winning dish. Craig couldn’t get enough of it, there was barely any leftover by the end.
Do you want to get funky? Here’s how to do it.
Fusilli with Tomatoes, Bacon & Blue Cheese
A few strips of bacon or pancetta, sliced into lardons
A splash of olive oil
1/2 an onion, diced
A big pinch of red chile flakes (pepperoncini)
A big squeeze of tomato paste (like 1 tablespoon)
1 28-ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
1 pound fusilli
A good big chunk of blue cheese, preferably Gorgonzola (1/4 pound? Even more?)
1. In a large skillet, add the bacon or pancetta and the splash of olive oil. Turn up the heat to medium.
2. When the bacon’s released a lot of its fat and is just starting to crisp but not entirely crispy, push the bacon aside and add the onion to the pan. Allow the onion to cook by itself for a minute, stirring it around, then incorporate it into the bacon and stir all around.
3. Push the onion and bacon aside and add the red chile flakes to one part of the pan and the tomato paste to another part of the pan, allowing both to caramelize slightly:
4. Stir everything together and then add your can of tomatoes, squeezing the tomatoes with your hands into the pan (careful not to squirt yourself! You can do this in a bowl beforehand if you’d rather not make a mess.) Sprinkle with salt, bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and allow to perk away for 30 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil, then season it aggressively with salt. (It should taste like the sea.)
6. When the sauce is nice and thick, it’ll look something like this:
Drop the fusilli into the pot of boiling water and cook 1 minute less than it says on the package directions (taste a noodle: it should be just al dente.) With a spider, lift the fusilli into the pan with the sauce, turn up the heat and stir all around. If the pan is really dry on the bottom, add a splash of pasta cooking water. Continue to cook and stir until all the fusilli is coated and has absorbed most of the sauce.
7. Off the heat, add all your blue cheese and stir it aggressively into the pasta until it makes a creamy emulsion. Scoop into bowls and serve with a drizzle of olive oil on top and another sprinkling of red chile flakes.