16 February 2014

Mascarpone Pasta Sauce with Bacon



Bacon is trending, no doubt about it. But when I first tried this favorite dish in my first year of blogging, I felt rather decadent for suggesting it. From 2007:

My father thoroughly understood the link between food and learning. When I was in grade school, Sunday night dinners at our house often involved “lessons” to match the food served. Learning by eating, so to speak.



It was also a chance to teach us table manners.

French night could mean anything on the table, from beef stew to onion soup. Italian Night meant spaghetti or lasagna by candlelight - and a candle in a colorful Chianti bottle, of course. (When we cleaned out my mother's house in late 2012, we found several of those old bottles. I now have one for those special nights.)

The fare was not just ethnic: Titanic Night featured a salad with iceberg lettuce and some sort of saltwater fish.

Always inventive, my mother got into the spirit of things with appropriate centerpieces and the music. Sometimes, she even typed up little menus.

Trivia was a big thing with my father. He had an amazing mind for details and would always follow up his more stupendous memory feats with the phrase, “Fiction and Fact from Bob’s Almanac.” Sunday night dinners were always filled with trivia, often about the very food we were eating.

In my mail recently was some interesting trivia about one of my favorite cheeses, Mascarpone, from the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, along with some inventive recipes.

Mascarpone, I read, was developed about 400 years ago in the Lombardy region of Italy. It was once a fall and winter cheese, but is now produced year round — and not only in Italy.

Wisconsin's own BelGioioso Cheese makes award-winning Mascarpone, distributed across the United States. Mascarpone is not merely a dessert cheese, but as you will see below, it can enhance savory dishes as well.

Mascarpone Pasta Sauce with Bacon
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1/3 cup onion, diced
  • 6 slices thick cut peppered bacon, cut into 1-inch strips
  • 2 cups tomato puree
  • 1 cup water
  • salt and pepper
  • 8 ounces Mascarpone cheese
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil leaves, julienned
Heat oil in heavy skilled. Add garlic and sauté until flavor is released, but do not brown. Remove garlic. Add onion and cook over low heat until it turns golden.

Add bacon, increasing heat until bacon cooks but does not turn crisp. Add tomato puree and water. Simmer until the sauce thickens — about 20 minutes or longer. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.

Add Mascarpone and basil; blend well. Sauce will be orange and opaque. Top with Parmesan or Asiago cheese, if you like.

Note: The sauce will flavor a pound of pasta. I added some Italian sausage to please the palate of my meat-loving husband.

We usually serve with a green salad and a simple merlot. I'm finding that a crisp white wine pairs well with this dish, too. Experiment!

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