I’ve got about three versions of this recipe in my enormous recipe file, but until now I have never actually got around to making it. I seriously don’t know what’s taken me so long.
This is one of those recipes that is really easy, very quick, and ridiculously tasty – get the best quality ingredients you can find. I bought some excellent bacon at the Farmers’ Markets a few weeks ago, froze it in 300g portions, and I’ve been using it bit by bit since then and the flavour is really amazing. You’ll never buy it from the supermarket again. Supermarket bacon tastes crap.
If you have all your ingredients prepped and ready to go, it takes less than ten minutes to cook. So you have to work fast. (This is a Jamie Oliver recipe, I think!)
PENNE WITH BROCOLLI & BACON
350g penne, orrichette or whatever you have on hand.
2 large heads of broccoli or two bunches broccolini – chopped into bite-sizes pieces. (If using broccolini, use the stems as well!)
6 slices short-cut bacon, cut into 1cm-wide strips (variation: pancetta)
2 cloves of garlic, squashed but kept mostly whole
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 slices day-old ciabatta or other woodfired bread – use a food processor to blitz into crumbs.
Half a cup of grated parmesan cheese, plus a little extra.
1. Put the water for the pasta on to boil and start preparing the broccoli, bacon and bread.
2. In a frying pan over medium heat, heat the olive oil and fry the bacon until it is starting to get nice and crispy. Tip the pan so the oil drains to one side and remove the bacon onto a plate lined with paper towel.
The water is probably boiling by now, so tip the pasta in. Set a timer to tell you when it’s got two minutes left to cook (ie penne takes about 8 minutes, so set a timer for 6 mins)
3. Let the oil heat up again before adding the garlic. Allow to cook for a couple of minutes but don’t let it burn. You’re just trying to flavour the oil with the garlic. When it’s done, remove and discard.
4. Let the oil warm up again and tip the breadcrumbs into the frying pan. Stir around so they absorb the oil. (optional extra: toss in half a teaspoon of dried chilli flakes… I reckon the same quantity of lemon zest would also be nice).
5. When the timer goes off, tip the broccoli into the pot with the pasta and reset the timer for two minutes.
6. The breadcrumbs should be getting nicely brown and crispy by now. Remove from the heat and tip them into a bowl.
7. When the pasta/broccoli is ready, use a coffee cup to take half a cup of the cooking liquid from the pot and set aside. Drain the pasta in a colander then return it to the pot over a very low heat. Toss the bacon into and stir it all around; if it needs a bit of loosening up add some of the cooking liquid. Add the parmesan cheese and keep tossing to coat.
8. Divide the pasta into four bowls and top each bowl with a generous sprinkling of the breadcrumbs and even more parmesan cheese. Eat!