I started my recovery journey 11 weeks ago, which at times feels like a major detour from my previous life. There are days that make me believe that I am making incredible strides in my recovery. There are also of course days where I feel simply bewildered or annoyed that I spend so much time rehabbing such a small (albeit critical) part of my body. The best way I can explain how I feel on most days is that I have a GIANT headache in my hand. I now realize how blissfully ignorant I was to have had the luxury of both hands and arms working without pain. As a food blogger I am constantly using my hands to cook, type, take photos and ….well that is something I will never take for granted again. I am happy to finally be on the other side of that all too slippery slope.
I am a different person than I was nearly 3 months ago, and I just keep evolving my mindset. I am somehow more spiritual and ever more grateful for all that I have around me. I know I am lucky to have come out of a serious wound and an infection. There were weeks that I wondered if I would ever feel as well as I feel today. What I do know is that I want to slow down and squeeze each moment tightly to make it last. Life was speeding by me before, and now I want my light to shine down a little lower to see what is right around me. I want to hear my own breath, feel my eyes blink, smack my lips and feel a smile curl up the edges of my mouth. I want to taste and indulge in every bite. I may not have chosen this journey but I am going to own it. The good days, the bad days and all the in between days. It is now part of who I am. And this spicy smokey dish fits my mood to perfection this week.
A hearty satisfying pasta dish with loads of bacon, sweet summer tomato flavors and a jab of heat to tingle your lips. It’s the kind of dish that is simple to pull together and lets your palate know you are alive!
Cheesy Linguine with Smokey Garden Tomatoes
12 slices thick cut bacon, sliced into 1/4-inch wide strips
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
5 large cloves garlic, minced
3 lbs garden tomatoes, fine chopped (do not peel or seed)**
1 pound linguini
1 cup Pecorino cheese, freshly grated
**if using canned tomatoes substitute one 28-oz can of whole tomatoes with liquid plus one 14-oz can of whole tomatoes drained.
Cook linguini according to package directions. Place washed tomatoes in a food processor and rough chop. Set aside.
In a pan, add the bacon and cook over medium high heat. Saute until the bacon is a golden brown color. Remove it with a slotted spoon and allow to drain on a plate lined with paper towels.
Over medium heat, add onions, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper into the pan of bacon fat. Cook approximately 5-8 minutes, stirring regularly until onions start to soften. Then add in garlic, stir for 1-2 minutes and then add in tomatoes.(If using canned tomatoes, crush them by hand as they go into the pan.) Blend in the bacon and bring to lively bubble. Cook until sauce thickens, approximately 7-8 minutes. Remove from heat, taste for seasoning, cover the pan and set aside for up to 1 hour.
Once pasta is cooked, toss with Pecorino cheese, allowing it to cling to the noodles. Add in the sauce; all but 1/2 cup and mix well. Serve hot with additional cheese and sauce as garnish.
Pasta History/Bonus Recipe Variation: Before the tomato took over the Italian kitchen, this pasta was made in the hills of the Abruzzo and Lazio regions. It was known as ‘Spaghetti Alla Gricia’. To prepare this variation replace the bacon with 1/2 pound ‘guanciale’ (cured pork jowl), pancetta or smoked pancetta. Eliminate the onion and the tomatoes and cook as directed addding the garlic, salt, a LOT of black pepper, and red pepper flake. Before draining the pasta set askide 1/2 cup of the boiled pasta water and add it to the pan. Once linguini is drained add it to the pan. Cook over meidum high heat for 30-45 seconds. Add in Pecorino and serve.