This Bacon Pasta is guaranteed to become a family favorite with its intoxicating aroma, smoky, salty, porky-sweet flavored, shatteringly crispy bacon and cozy, comforting, luxurious sauce. It’s made with loads of fresh garlic and crispy bacon enveloped in a creamy, cheesy sauce spiked with blistered cherry tomatoes, Italian seasonings, salty Parmesan and sweet, buttery Gouda (may sub cheddar). You can keep the Bacon Pasta recipe simple or pump it up with shrimp, chicken or any veggies of choice such as broccoli, bell peppers, or asparagus. Your family will love this easy indulgent pasta dinner with a side of Garlic Bread or Buttery Breadsticks and fresh Green Bean Salad.
Servings 6 -8 servings
- 1 pound spaghetti
- 12 strips thick cut bacon at room temperature
- 4-6 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 1/2 cup heavy cream (or ½ cup milk whisked with 1 1/2 tsps cornstarch, or evaporated milk mixed with 1 tsp cornstarch)
- 1 15 oz. can fire roasted tomatoes with juices
- 1 tsp EACH dried parsley, dried basil
- 1/2 tsp EACH dried oregano, onion powder, salt, pepper
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
- 1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) freshly grated mild Gouda (may sub cheddar) at room temperature
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese at room temperature
Cook pasta al dente in salted water according to package directions. Reserve ½ cup pasta water before draining pasta. Toss pasta with a drizzle of olive oil if not adding to sauce immediately.
Working in batches, add bacon to a large, cold skillet (see notes if using cast-iron). Cook over medium heat until crispy, flipping as needed. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate. Crumble once cooled.
Drain all but ¼ cup of the bacon grease and heat over medium-low heat. Sprinkle in flour and cook and stir for 2 minutes (it will be thick). Add garlic and cook an additional 30 seconds.
Reduce heat to low, then slowly whisk in chicken broth, followed by heavy cream (or milk/cornstarch), canned diced tomatoes with juice and all seasonings.
Increase heat to medium-high and bring the sauce to a simmer while stirring constantly. Once the sauce starts to simmer around the edges, add the cherry tomatoes. Continue to simmer until thickened, stirring occasionally, about 5-7 minutes.
Reduce heat to low and stir in Gouda until melted, followed by Parmesan cheese until melted. You may need to continue to cook for 1-2 minutes on low for the Parmesan to completely melt.
Stir in half of the bacon followed by the pasta, adding additional reserved pasta water a little at a time if needed to reach desired consistency.
Garnish servings with remaining reserved bacon and with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and parsley if desired.
- Turkey bacon: if you use turkey bacon there won’t be enough leftover flavorful bacon drippings to use to make the base of the béchamel sauce. You can use turkey bacon and then use butter and/or oil (or a combo) instead of the bacon drippings as the base of the sauce, but then you are missing out on some serious bacon flavor.
- Fire roasted diced tomatoes: I love using both canned and fresh tomatoes in this easy pasta recipe for extra flavor and texture, but you can use one or the other if you prefer. Fire roasted tomatoes are located next to the traditional diced tomatoes, if you can’t find fire roasted diced tomatoes, then use traditional diced tomatoes.
- Gouda cheese: tastes similar to cheddar but is milder, slightly sweet, nutty, and buttery. Equally important, Gouda melts 1000X better than cheddar so it allows you to enhance the flavor while melting gorgeously. Young Gouda will be milder and sweeter and more mature Gouda will be stronger and nuttier, so pay attention and make sure you choose the right one for you.
- Cheddar cheese substitute: please use only use freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese because pre-packaged shredded cheeses are coated in anti-clumping chemicals which inhibits its melting ability.
- Add protein: the creamy sauce is so scrumptious you’re going to want to use it with everything! In addition to bacon, try adding andouille sausage (skip red pepper if using), shrimp, chicken or pork chops (recommend brining first).
- Add veggies: add any chopped vegetables such as bell peppers, asparagus, broccoli, zucchini, green beans, peas etc. Sauté longer cooking vegetables with the garlic and add shorter cooking vegetables, like zucchini, with the tomatoes. If using frozen peas, thaw and stir in with the Parmesan to warm through. If adding spinach, add to the sauce at the end of cooking; allow to wilt 1-2 minutes.
- Make it gluten-free: use gluten free flour in the sauce (this one is my fav, awesome for cakes too!) and serve this easy pasta recipe over gluten-free pasta (Tinkyada is great brand), sweet potato noodles, zoodles or spaghetti squash.
Expert tips and Tricks:
- Stainless steel: bacon can stick to stainless steel if it isn’t well-seasoned, so you may want to stick with cast iron. If using stainless steel to cook bacon, the method will be slightly different. Cover the bottom of the pan in neutral oil and heat over medium-low for 5 minutes and then add the bacon and continue to cook at medium heat.
- Remove the bacon from the fridge. Transfer the bacon from the fridge to your counter 15 to 20 minutes before cooking. At room temperature bacon cooks up more quickly and evenly (just like steak).
- Don’t cook bacon at too high of heat. The bacon should be cooked over medium heat, or medium-low if your skillet runs hot, until the fat is rendered and then you may turn it up to medium to finish crisping up. If you cook it at too high of heat, you’ll end up with the chewy bacon and the seemingly oxymoron of slightly burnt bacon that’s also slightly under-cooked because the fat is not adequately rendered.
BAKED Bacon Pasta (Great make a head pasta!)
You can serve the Bacon Pasta straight out of the skillet (which is what I do), or if you want to make it extra cheesy (or great for make ahead), then you can make Baked Bacon Pasta. Transfer pasta to a lightly greased 9x13 baking dish then evenly top with 1 cup (or more) extra Gouda cheese. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes or until cheese is melted (add an extra 10 minutes if baking from the refrigerator). Top with reserved bacon.
How to Prep Ahead
You can prep parts of this Bacon Pasta recipe in advance so the final dish comes together quickly
- Cook bacon (and make sure to save the grease!). Bacon can be cooked ahead of time and stored for up to 4 to 5 days in the refrigerator. The only problem is, it won’t be crispy anymore. It will still be meaty and delicious, but if you want to crisp up the bacon, I suggest reheating it when ready to serve. Note, I have NOT tried this method, but the internet suggests spraying a 9x13 dish with baking spray then lining the bacon in a single layer and covering with foil. Bake at 400 degrees for 5-15 minutes (depending on thickness and how well it was cooked), until you hear sizzling and the coagulated fat has rendered so it's crispy again (I’d check at 5 minutes so you don’t burn the bacon!).
- Keep bacon warm. You can cook the bacon up to 2 hours ahead of time and keep it warm and crispy in the oven. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F or on its Warm setting, if your oven has one. Line a baking sheet pan with a single layer of paper towels for easy cleanup then and set an oven-safe cooling rack on top. Lay the bacon strips on the rack in a single layer so they aren’t touching; place the baking sheet in the middle oven rack. Prop the oven door open 1 to 2 inches for up to two hours.
- Mince garlic: prep and store in an airtight container/plastic bag in the refrigerator.
- Grate cheeses: prep and store the cheeses an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.
HOW TO STORE AND REHEAT
- Storage: store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 4-5 five days.
- Microwave: transfer portions to a microwave-safe dish, microwave for 1 minute, stir, then continue to heat at 30-second intervals until warmed through.
- Stove: transfer to a skillet and heat over medium heat, stirring often. You may want to add a splash of milk or heavy cream if the pasta seems dry.
How to Freeze
This Bacon Pasta freezes well but keep in mind the bacon will lose any crispiness. You can either freeze the pasta in an airtight container, freeze in individual servings or transfer to an oven safe 9x13 baking dish and top with 1 cup shredded Gruyere to thaw and bake. I
f baking, wrap the casserole dish all the way around with 2 layers of plastic wrap followed by one layer of aluminum foil. Freeze for up to 3 months then thaw overnight in the refrigerator when ready to reheat. Alternatively, bake from frozen letting the casserole sit at room temperature for 30-60 minutes then bake, covered in foil, for 56-60 minutes, then remove the foil and bake an additional 10-15 minutes until hot in the center.