There’s good pasta, then there’s…

Great pasta. It’s something I don’t come across often; great pasta is hard to come by because, let’s face it, most pasta is delicious. There’s just something about a good noodle, some sauce, and a bunch of cheese that just can’t be bad (excluding, maybe, spaghetti-o’s.) Pasta is practically fool-proof, and so easy, that most of the time when I’m making it, it’s because I want something quick, satisfying, and ahem, sprinkled with parmigiano-reggiano. I hardly put any real effort into my pasta—and I’m always happy with the result.

But every once in a while, a pasta dish gets made with some extra time, thought, and love. The ingredients are paired with care, the cooking of everything is closely watched. Bacon is involved. The happy result of these pastas is greatness. You sit your friends down at the table, and they’re thinking cool, pasta. Can’t be bad. And then they eat… and they are like, totally wowed. Like, oh my gosh this is the best pasta ever and I can’t believe everything works so well and it doesn’t even need anything else and Robin you are the coolest girl in the world will you marry me?

Now that’s pasta greatness. It doesn’t come around often, nor should it, or you’d have the neighborhood banging down your doors. But great pasta should be made every once in a while and you’d be smart to make this one. It takes a bit longer than your everyday pasta dish but not much longer—it’s still an easy-enough recipe to be suitable for these late, lazy, Summer days.

The pine nuts are toasted to enhance their flavor, the sliced zucchini well-salted (and cheesed) before roasting, and, if you are too lazy (like me) to make your own pasta, the good stuff should be used—either fresh from your local market or fancy, dried pasta imported from Italy. Both options will be a dollar or two more than the cheap stuff but since this pasta doesn’t have a tomato sauce, it’s really worth it.

And please, don’t shy away from the bacon grease, it simple must to be added to the dish. Great pastas are rare luxuries and calories are not to be counted.

Great Pasta

serves 4

  • 4 small-medium zucchini, sliced
  • 1/2 cup parmigianno-reggianno, grated
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt, pepper
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 6 slices good bacon, cut crosswise into three pieces
  • 1 pound good dried or fresh spaghetti pasta
  • another 1/3-1/2 cup parmigianno-reggianno
  • small bunch of basil, cut into a chiffonade
  • generous pinch of red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Place zucchini slices on a big baking sheet (you may need to use two) and sprinkle liberally with salt, pepper, and cheese. Drizzle olive oil over slices. Roast in oven for 20-30 minutes, or until tender and beginning to crisp up.

Meanwhile, start cooking your bacon in a pan over low heat. In a small skillet or saucepan, toast pine nuts over medium heat until fragrant. Fill a pot with salted water and bring to a boil. Cook pasta according to directions.

Drain pasta and place back into the pot. When done, add in the bacon (with the grease!), pine nuts, and zucchini. Throw in the basil and red pepper flakes. Stir around so everything gets coated in that beautiful sheen that is bacon grease. Serve topped with extra cheese.