I’ll admit it. Growing up in North Dakota where I was just as likely to be offered lutefisk as pizza when invited over to a friend’s house, I never really understood the appeal of a dense greasy piece of bread with lots of salty toppings on it. [gasp!] Now, in my defense, my hometown is where a certain red-roofed pizza chain was considered the place to go when you wanted a good pie but when you have literally a pound of salted meat and cheese on the top, the odds of the dough underneath being fully cooked much less chewy and crispy are about as likely as the Dodo bird making a comeback. And then I met the hubby who like many American males considers pizza to be its own food group and discovered super thin crust, minimalistic Neapolitan pizza which makes Kate Moss appear zaftig and not-too-thin-but-just-thin-enough-to-fold-your-slice-in-half NY style pizza. Sooo, this is why people of all walks and ages do the happy dance when pizza’s on the menu.
This recipe is a riff on our favorite NY style pizza which is pretty ironic cuz the owner actually turned one of this favorite pastas into a pizza. Great minds think in reverse, huh? The savory bacon with pockets of tangy tomato and unexpected bursts of molasses-y sweetness from the dates keeps your taste buds guessing while the chewy spaghetti and crunchy pine nuts give textural interest. I find that the astringency of the parsley helps to cut through some of the richness of the bacon and pine nuts as well as providing a bit of green. And who doesn’t love tender, sweet, caramelized onions? This also tastes good with mushrooms or artichoke hearts but, um, I got distracted?
4 strips bacon
1 small sweet onion, finely diced
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp (2 cloves) crushed garlic
1/2-1 tsp crushed red pepper, depending on how spicy you like it
6-7 sun-dried tomatoes, minced (~1/4 cup)
2-3 Medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped (~2 tbsp)
1 tbsp fresh (1 tsp dried) basil, finely chopped
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 tbsp shredded parmesan, optional
1/4 c pine nuts
2 tsp sea salt
1 lb spaghetti
In a large sauté pan, toast pine nuts over med-lo heat ~2-3 minutes. Nuts can burn very easily so feel free to sip your favorite cocktail while conscientiously watching over them Set pine nuts aside.
In the same pan, brown bacon till fat is rendered. Set bacon aside.
Using tongs and paper towels, blot out fat till just 1-2 tsp remains. Caramelize onion over med-lo heat with lid on sauté pan ~10-5 minutes. Remove lid and add butter, olive oil, garlic, crushed red pepper, tomatoes, and dates then sauté till aromatic ~1-2 minutes. Stir in basil and turn off heat.
While onions caramelize, boil water and 2 tsp sea salt in a large ~5 quart. Set a timer for 1 minute less than the recommended cooking time then boil spaghetti. Reserve ~1 c pasta water and drain pasta.
Add 1/4 c pasta water to sauce and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Mix in half of spaghetti till well combined then add remaining spaghetti and cook for another minute in the sauce to allow the spaghetti to soak up all that yummy flavor. Add more pasta water as needed to achieve the consistency you prefer. This is a pretty dry pasta so I only need about 1/4 c. Turn off heat and mix in parsley. Serve with pine nuts and parmesan if using. Makes 4 servings.