The name of this recipe means “smoky pasta” in Italian, and it hails from the Cortona region of Italy. A friend told me about this recipe years ago since his family is originally from Cortona, and one day I decided to try to make it, only to discover that there was not a lot of information about it online. Naturally, I decided to figure out my own version since the idea of a pasta sauce made from bacon, tomato, rosemary, and cream sounded too good to be true.
After a lot of fiddling, this recipe is what I came up with: a thick, rich sauce that clings to the noodles and capitalizes on the flavor in its name: smoke. The aromatic baseline for this hearty meal supports the more delicate flavors of rosemary and garlic which mingle in the background. Over the past year, and especially in lockdown, I think this has become our favorite pasta sauce. Maybe ever.
Post script: Yes, I am wearing quarantine sweats in this photoshoot.
Post post script: No, I am not accepting criticism at this time.
Pasta al Fumo
7 oz good bacon (around 8 strips) or pancetta, finely chopped
Note: Higher quality bacon is recommended for this recipe. Not only does the flavor of your final product benefit, there’s also less fat that gets rendered out. Using cheap bacon will give you about twice as much fat you need for this recipe and it’ll just weight the whole dish down. That being said, if you do end up using cheaper bacon, take some of the fat out of the pan until you have around ¼ cup left. My rule of thumb is around 1 Tbsp of bacon fat per ¼ lb of pasta.
¼ cup, plus 2 Tbsp tomato paste
6 large garlic cloves, crushed
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 8–10” sprig of rosemary, leaves removed, minced
½ cup heavy cream
A drop or two of liquid smoke
1 lb pasta, or one batch of Everyday Pasta Dough, cut into spaghetti
Parmigiano-Reggiano for serving
Bring a Dutch oven or large heavy-bottom soup pot to medium heat. Add the chopped bacon and cook until the fat has rendered out completely and the bacon has become crispy and golden. Remove the bacon bits with a spoon and set aside in a small bowl.
Bring the pan to medium low heat. Add the tomato paste, garlic, red pepper flakes, pepper, and chopped rosemary and sauté in the bacon fat until the tomato paste becomes just a shade darker and the garlic becomes fragrant and translucent. Add cream and liquid smoke, stir to combine, then remove from the heat. Add salt to taste.
Cook pasta in boiling water until al dente then strain, saving at least a cup of the pasta water. Add the cooked pasta to the pan along with 1/2 cup of the pasta water to start and stir until all noodles are coated and the sauce has a velvety texture. Add more pasta water as you see fit and toss until your desired sauce texture is achieved. Add the bacon bits, stir to combine, then serve with some freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.