Okay, I realize today’s BLT Pappardelle might be a tad controversial. Admittedly using a sandwich as a jumping-off point for a pasta dish is a little eyebrow-raising. I mean, for some strange reason the BLT makes sense as a salad even as a pasta salad, but a pasta fresh from the skillet? It’s also a pasta that isn’t remotely Italian, which the Internet generally hates. And there is the question of hot lettuce – is that really something we need in our lives? All of these are valid points and reasonable reasons not wanting to make this BLT Pappardelle. But I have one counterargument – this dish is freaking delicious and well worth the rule-breaking. And I promise the lettuce is introduced after the pasta has been taken off of the heat.
Before I get into this dish, let me establish from the outset that the BLT does not need to be improved upon. It is the perfect sandwich. It is so perfect, in fact, other iconic sandwiches are built on its bones. A club sandwich? Why that’s just a double-decker BLT with some turkey thrown in for good measure. A BLT works because it hits all the right notes. You have the sweetness from the tomatoes, which also bring some moisture and juiciness to the proceedings. You’ve got the salty from the bacon and hopefully a nice high-quality finishing salt for those tomatoes because if there is one thing tomatoes love it’s salt. And finally, you have a palate cleanser in the form of the lettuce. I like a good crunchy variety here. Iceberg or baby gem are the gold standard in my opinion.
And I’ve only mentioned the stars. The BLT also has an iconic supporting cast. The first, and perhaps the most important, is mayo. I know, some people despise mayo but I feel like it’s non-negotiable on a BLT. Like, if you hate mayo, I think you hate BLTs. The next is fresh ground black pepper. This, like the salt, is pivotal to making tomatoes the best they can be. And last but not least we have the bread. I like toasted sourdough. And I like slices that can support the contents of the sandwich, so thin cuts need not apply. I don’t think it matters what type of bread you use. But I do think it should be toasted. You’re missing out on a lot of tasty textures if you skip that step.
So now you know what I look for in a BLT. I have expressed my deep reverence for the sammie, and have potentially bored you to tears discussing its intricacies. So now, I’m going to mess with it and turn it into pasta. If you think this is blasphemy, I don’t blame you. Let’s break this BLT Pappardelle down the same way we did the sandwich starting with the bread. Yes, there is bread in this dish. Did you think I was above putting pasta and bread in a single dish? No such luck. Start by tearing your favorite bread into bite-sized pieces. I like to do this with my hands to create irregular shapes. I think there are more opportunities for crispy bits when you make croutons this way.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet. We are going to cook everything except the pasta in this skillet – talk about layers of flavor. Once the oil is shimmering, add a minced clove of garlic and the bread. Reduce the heat to keep the garlic from burning. Sauté until the bread is golden and crispy. This will take a bit of time. Once the croutons are in a good place, transfer them to a bowl and set them aside. Wipe out the skillet – nothing ruins a dish more than a stray bit of brunt garlic.
Return the skillet to the heat and add your bacon. Yes, the first star to hit the pan is the bacon because its fat will eliminate the need for more cooking oil and it will flavor the entire dish. Fry the bacon until it is nice and crisp. I prefer thick-cut bacon for this, but I’m not gonna be a stickler about it. Cook the bacon that speaks to you. If you can find pepper-coated bacon, buy it and fry it. I couldn’t find any on my excursion and I’m still a little upset about it.
Remove the bacon bits from the pan using a slotted spoon and transfer them to a plate lined with a paper towel. Set it aside to drain. Now, there is probably quite a lot of fat in your skillet at this point, so you’re going to want to pour some of it off. A little fat is great for cooking, a lot can turn your dinner into a greasy mess. Leave roughly 2 tablespoons of fat in the skillet and add some cherry tomatoes. I used heirloom cherry tomatoes because they looked so beautiful there was no earthly way to avoid buying them. Add a generous sprinkle of salt and let the tomatoes cook undisturbed for 5-7 minutes, then shake the pan. You want the tomatoes’ skin to split and for them to become saucy but they should retain their shape.
Once the tomatoes are in a good place, add a dollop of Dijon mustard and white wine to the pan. Scrape up any of the delicious brown bits that have gathered on the bottom of the skillet. Return the bacon and add the pappardelle. The pappardelle should be al dente – tender but with a little bite. Toss until every strand of pasta is coated in the sauce. Add a little pasta water if you find the skillet is too dry. When the pasta is ready, turn off the heat and toss in the baby gem lettuce. Pile the pasta onto plates and garnish with the garlic and croutons you toasted earlier.
And that’s everything you need to know about this BLT Pappardelle. It may not be traditional, it could even be offensive, but it most certainly slaps.
- 1 Large skillet
- 1 Large pot
- 120g (4oz) whole wheat ciabatta torn into bite-sized pieces
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 6 slices thick-cut bacon ** coarsely chopped
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes
- ½ tsp salt
- 454g (1lb) uncooked pappardelle
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- ⅓ cup white wine
- 1 head baby gem lettuce torn into bite-sized pieces
- ¼ cup fresh basil leaves*** for sprinkling
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet until shimmering. Add the garlic and the ciabatta and toast until golden, shaking the pan frequently. About 10 minutes. Transfer the croutons to a bowl and set aside.120g (4oz) whole wheat ciabatta, 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 clove garlic
- Wipe out the skillet and add the bacon. Fry until very crispy. Remove the bacon using a slotted spoon and transfer it to a plate lined with a paper towel. Set aside to drain.6 slices thick-cut bacon **
- Pour off all the but 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease in the skillet. Add the cherry tomatoes and the salt. Let cook undisturbed for 5 minutes, then shake the pan. Repeat until the tomatoes are jammy.1 pint cherry tomatoes, ½ tsp salt
- While the tomatoes are cooking, place a large pot of water over high heat and bring to a boil. Liberally salt the water and add the pappardelle. Cook until al dente, tossing the pasta frequently to prevent sticking. Drain the pasta and retain some of the cooking liquid.454g (1lb) uncooked pappardelle
- Add the mustard and white wine to the tomatoes. Deglaze the pan. Return the bacon and add the pasta. Toss to coat. Add a splash of the pasta water if the skillet starts looking a little dry. Turn off the heat and add the lettuce. Toss to disperse.1 tbsp Dijon mustard, ⅓ cup white wine, 1 head baby gem lettuce
- Divide the pasta across 4 plates and top each with the croutons you toasted earlier and fresh basil leaves. Serve immediately.¼ cup fresh basil leaves***