Sometimes life gets in the way… It just does, no matter how well you plan out your day. You have a late meeting at work, the kids have soccer practice, the laundry machine broke down with the clothes still in it, your kids just told you about the epic science project that's due tomorrow and the list goes on… On nights like these, it's essential to have a recipe in your repertoire that is simple and a crowd-pleaser. Whether for just yourself, your family or guests you're expecting, these recipes keep the peace and make life easier just when you need it most. For me, this spaghetti dish is just one of many lifesavers I turn to in such situations. Even when there's no guests to impress, I need to be fed and I've made this dish a fair few times in about 1/2 an hour and then smugly patted myself on the back for not ordering pizza. For me, this is a win.
An added benefit to this recipe is that most of the ingredients can be kept on-hand for a long time. Pancetta or bacon usually keep for a long time in the fridge, so I try to always have them in stock. Dried pasta is always in the cupboard as well as the necessary spices. This means that a quick run to the local shop for a bit of cream is easy enough to achieve if I don't have it in the fridge already. It's a quick stop on the way home from work that will ensure you have dinner on the table in time for the hungry masses you may be feeding.
The crispy pancetta adds a nice bit of texture & saltiness to what would otherwise be a rather rich pasta dish. It's reminiscent of bacon, but ever so slightly different and it's not at all the same as cubed pancetta I've used in other recipes. If you can't find sliced pancetta where you normally shop, crispy bacon or streaky bacon as they say here in the UK would work too. Just make sure you cook it until it's properly crisp before crumbling it. Another alternative if you're really in a hurry would be the already cooked crispy bacon you can find in the deli section of most grocery stores, but just be very careful if you use pre-cooked bacon as it tends to be very salty so you may not require additional salt in the dish - in this case, I would suggest leaving the salt out entirely and allowing guests to salt their own if they need it.
350ml heavy cream
100g grated parmesan cheese
100g thinly sliced pancetta, cooked and crumbled
1/2 teaspoon sea salt flakes
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
1. Bring a large pot of water to the boil, adding some salt and a drop of olive oil. Cook the spaghetti according to package instructions, making sure to check on it a minute or two before it's supposed to be done. When the pasta is ready to be strained, reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water for the sauce.
2. Meanwhile, add the cream, salt and a few generous grinds of fresh black pepper to a large skillet or wok on low heat. Heat gently, stirring occasionally for at least 5 minutes.
3. When the pasta is strained, add it to the sauce along with the parmesan cheese. Toss in the sauce, adding the pasta cooking water 1 tablespoon at a time as needed if the mixture is too dry. Do this until all of the pasta is coated in the creamy sauce and transfer to your choice of serving dish.
4. If using the nutmeg, grate it now over the pasta along with a few more grinds of fresh black pepper before sprinkling the pasta with the crumbled, crispy pancetta. Serve hot on warmed plates.