Gluten free eating can be full of flavour and texture, once you find acceptable product and recipe alternatives. Gluten Free Penne with Crispy Bacon & Tomato checks all the boxes, in the most delicious way~
And the credit goes to…
The success of this recipe is credited to two sources, with the second irrefutable proof that inspiration can come from many places. The gluten free credit goes to makers of Barilla pasta, which I have finally relented and tried, getting over my misconstrued notion that the only ‘decent’ gluten free pasta was made from brown rice, and by an Italian company called Jovial based in Italy. Sadly their award-winning products are not yet available in Toronto, but I live in hope that my repeated requests to have it here will soon be heard!
As for the GF pasta options we do have available, I’d tried several made with corn & rice flours and I don’t mind saying they were pretty much awful – with little taste and even worse, texture like sand. Imagine my extreme disappointment when gluten sensitivity kept me away from regular pasta, and would you believe… one of my favourites was Barilla. I mean, how many times have you heard me go on about biting through a forkful of twirled, perfectly al dente linguine…
Where did I get my hands on the award-winning pasta from Jovial you ask… in Buffalo! Sadly a couple of years ago now, and I’ve not been back since. Although… I would consider making the drive, yes, just for the pasta. But… I’d buy a whole lot more and happily pay whatever the duty would be. What to do when you can’t get the products you long for… you try others, finally giving Barilla GF Pasta a try. Man, am I glad I did!
The other credit… this is based on a recipe from the stellar mystery series I’m currently reading, Commissario Guido Brunetti by Donna Leon, with a version of this as the stalwart Commissarios’ favourite pasta! Inspiration comes from many places, doesn’t it…
It’s all about texture.
What really makes this dish, in addition to the awesomeness of the GF pasta, is the bacon. Cooking it first, but removing it from the pan to add later as a garnish, keeps it crispy. Who likes soggy bacon anyway…? Adding a fresh rosemary sprig to the pan infuses it with flavour, without it becoming over powering; it’s also removed before cooking down the sauce.
Caramelizing the onions in bacon fat is a flavour builder of extreme proportions! Adding a splash of balsamic vinegar to the onions enhances their natural sweetness, while adding to the flavour profile. Fresh Roma tomatoes are a no-brainer and how long you cook them after adding to the pan, is entirely up to you.
Adding some of the pasta cooking water helps bring the sauce together as shown in the next photo.
Time things right, so you can take the pasta from the cooking pot, and add it right into the sauce. You do want, and need, some of the starchy pasta cooking water to make everything come together – as in making most all pasta dishes!
It’s what Italians do.
Gluten Free Penne with Crispy Bacon & Tomato
Caramelized onions add depth of flavour and fresh tomatoes natural sweetness, all complemented by crispy bacon & fresh rosemary in this flavour loaded GF pasta dish. If gluten is not an issue, by all means use regular penne.
- 1/2 box/175 grams approx. 2 cups good quality GF penne pasta I used Barilla
- 4 slices bacon cut across into approx. 1-inch pieces
- 1/2 sprig rosemary
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion halved, then thinly sliced across
- 2 cloves garlic thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- Few turns of freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 3 roma tomatoes halved, cored & cut into small pieces
- 1 - 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
- Chopped Italian parsley or basil
Put a medium-large pot of water on to boil for the pasta.
In a cold skillet large enough to mix the sauce and the pasta, add the bacon & rosemary. Turn the heat to medium and fry the bacon until it’s crispy, stirring occasionally. Remove from the skillet to drain on some kitchen paper and spoon off all the fat except for 1 tablespoon.
Scatter the sliced onions in the skillet and cook over medium-low heat for 10 - 15 minutes until very soft and golden. Add the garlic, vinegar & pepper and cook, stirring for one minute.
Put the pasta water on to boil, and cook according to package directions.
Return the rosemary to the pan and add the tomatoes. Cook over medium for anywhere from 5 - 10 minutes, depending on how softly cooked you want the tomatoes. If the sauce is ready before the pasta, turn off the heat.
When the pasta is ready, add it to the sauce, stirring to combine.
Serve in 2 big, deep bowls and get artful with the garnishes: grated Parmigiano, extra virgin olive oil and chopped Italian parsley or basil.
*there's no salt added, other than for the pasta water - the bacon & cheese should have enough. Taste and adjust accordingly.
**if gluten is not an issue, use your favourite penne (or other short pasta)