February 2, 2011
Sweet Potato and Bacon Pasta
This is the sad story of a lonely sweet potato that took up residence on my counter for about 2 1/2 months:
Prior to Thanksgiving, the Ft. Myer Commissary had the largest sweet potatoes I have ever seen. As big as a football. So naturally, I had to buy a bunch of them. One actually went into a Thanksgiving dish (my mom's famous maple brown sugar sweet potato slop - yes, I know it needs a better name), one went into a roasted vegetable dish, and eventually there was one sad hold-out chilling on the counter.
Before I knew it, it was the end of January and the lonely sweet potato still sat there. It watched onions, garlic, bananas, apples, fennel a plenty, and others come and go. And still it sat. I poked it every now and then to see if it was getting soft, but it never gave in to my assaults.
The other night I decided I finally had to do something with it and the partial package of bacon that had been chilling in my fridge for almost as long as the sweet potato had been chilling on the counter. What else do you (ok, maybe not you, dear reader; perhaps you are more creative than me) do with random ingredients, but throw them into a pasta dish!
Unlike my last attempt at a sweet potato pasta dish (see here), this one was lacking substantial flavor, but the texture didn't bother me much. You can't really see it in the picture, but the sweet potato broke down a bit and clung to the shells. So the sad ending to the story is that the perseverant sweet potato ended up in a so-so pasta dish. The end.
Sweet Potato and Bacon Pasta
Extra virgin olive oil
2 shallots, diced
2/3 of a massive sweet potato, peeled and cut into small dice
Leaves from a couple sprigs of fresh thyme
4 slices bacon (the dish could have used more bacon, but I only had 4 slices left, so I would recommend using more. Unless you are a communist.)
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 box medium shells
1 cup chicken broth (I meant to grab the vegetable broth, but after I opened it, I realized it was chicken)
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1. Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté for a couple minutes. Add the sweet potato and thyme to the skillet; cook, stirring occasionally, for a couple minutes.
2. Meanwhile, cook the bacon according to your preferred method. Usually, I like to bake the bacon in the oven, but seeing as my oven takes 4 days to preheat, I decided to cook it in a sauté pan and make a huge bacon grease mess. When it is nice and crispy, let it drain on a paper towel-lined plate. When it has cooled, crumble into bite-sized pieces.
3. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente and drain, reserving a cup of the cooking water.
4. Back to the sweet potatoes. After a couple minutes, you will notice the pan looks really dry; add about a half cup of broth. After that has been absorbed, add the remaining half cup. Try a sweet potato to make sure it is tender and season with salt and pepper as necessary.
5. Add the pasta to the sweet potato mixture, stir to combine and add lots of cheese. Add some of the reserved pasta water if it is too dry. Top with the crumbled bacon.