Growing up, when mom and dad would get dressed up on a Friday night, they’d leave us behind with a babysitter, a box of fusilli and a jar of Prego. I couldn’t have been happier because, as most of you know by now, pasta is my favorite food (next to dessert). Chicken or the egg-wise, it is possible that it is my favorite food because I grew up eating it; if mom had left us behind with a can of Spam and a pair of pliers, maybe I’d be gorging on canned meat to pep myself up. As it stands, though, when I’m down in the dumps, nothing puts a smile on my face like a big bowl of fusilli with a meaty tomato sauce. Here’s one I whipped up this weekend using some smoky bacon I had leftover.
Grab 4 to 5 strips of bacon and slice those strips into slivers. (This would be more authentic with pancetta or guanciale, but bacon works fine. Look for Nueske’s if you can find it.) Put those slivers into a large skillet with a splash of olive oil and turn up the heat.
When the bacon is mostly rendered but not really crispy, add a chopped onion. I had two onion halves: half a yellow, half a red, so I added both of those chopped up.
A pinch of salt would be wise here too.
When the onion starts to soften and maybe takes on a little color, add 3 to 4 cloves of garlic, slivered.
As those begin to toast, add a sprinkling of red pepper flakes and, to a hot spot, some tomato paste from a tube.
Allow the tomato paste to color for a bit and when it does, add a can of whole San Marzano tomatoes and a big pinch of salt.
Truth be told, I didn’t have a whole can of San Marzanos, I just had half a can. So I added that, then filled the can with water and poured that in knowing that as it reduced, everything would thicken because of the tomato paste. And, after simmering away for 20 minutes, that’s precisely what happened.
While that’s happening, bring a big pot of water to a boil and salt it heavily. When your sauce is thick and tastes as good as you can imagine, drop your fusilli into the boiling water and cook 1 minute less than the package directions say. At that point, lift the fusilli into the pan with the tomato sauce, turn up the heat, and stir all around, coating everything in sauce for a full minute and adding some pasta cooking water if the pan looks dry.
Then: plate it up with a drizzle of olive oil on top and Parmesan cheese for grating at the table.
There you are, a big bowl of comfort. Invite me over when you make it, I won’t say no. It’s really the best.