One of our favorite recipes, this pasta sauce combines smoky spices and bacon with cream and parmesan for a crowd-pleasing dinner.
As a child, we went out to eat a lot. My parents both worked long hours, and at the end of day no one really felt like cooking. When I was first married, we went out to eat all the time still. I had no idea how to cook anything (literally anything), and I was working a menial but very tiring job. One of our favorite restaurants served a pasta dish just like this. It was about seventeen dollars, which I now realize is totally insane. Years later, when that was way out of the budget, I set out to recreate it at home.
I’m not sure if any of the ingredients I use are the same as that restaurant, but the end result tastes very similar and is completely delicious. I will keep my seventeen dollars. The smoky flavor is partly from the bacon, but mostly from the smoked paprika. The cayenne adds plenty of heat, which is then toned down by the cream and parmesan. There are no fancy ingredients. The only thing you might need to buy is the smoked paprika. It is not too spicy to serve to kids, and even my picky eaters love it. I hope you do too.
Step by step smoky parmesan pasta
The sauce will come together very quickly, so you will want to start the pasta first.
For this recipe it’s helpful to have everything pre-measured and chopped since it will move fast.
Use a pan that is large enough to hold all the sauce plus all the cooked pasta. I like a wide, deep sauté pan, but a large sauce pan will work as well. Begin by cooking the spices and shallot until softened.
Then add 3/4 cup of the chicken broth, the milk and cream, and bring to a simmer. The sauce will start to thicken.
To help it thicken more, combine the flour and remaining 1/4 cup chicken broth and pour it into the sauce. Simmer 3 minutes, and then add the parmesan. Stir until the cheese has completely melted.
To serve, add the cooked pasta, cooked crumbled bacon, chopped basil, and additional parmesan.
What to serve on the side:
- For a complete meal, add grilled chicken or shrimp directly to the pasta
- Any green salad will work well on the side of this meal
- And of course, you must serve bread! This soft Italian bread recipe would be perfect.
Can you reheat a cream based pasta sauce?
Any pasta sauce with cream is best served immediately. But it can be reheated! Reheat in the microwave on low power, or on the stovetop over low. As the pasta warms, add a little milk and stir. It won’t be perfect, but it will still be good.
Alas, anything with cream does not freeze well at all.
Here is the printable recipe:
Smoky Pasta Sauce with Bacon
For the sauce:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 tablespoon salt
- 1/2 tablespoon sugar
- 3/4 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/3 cup chopped shallot about 1 medium or 3 small shallots
- 1 cup chicken broth divided
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
- 1 lb cooked penne pasta
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- 3 slices bacon cooked and chopped
- 2 tablespoons shredded parmesan
- Cook pasta according to package directions while you are making the sauce.
- Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large sauté pan or stock pot. Add the salt, sugar, smoked paprika, cayenne, and shallot. Cook until the shallot is translucent and softened, about 3-4 minutes.
- Add 3/4 cup of chicken broth, scraping pan to incorporate all the seasonings. Add the cream and milk and simmer for 3-5 minuets, until sauce reduces slightly.
- In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1/4 cup of chicken broth with the flour and add to the sauce to thicken it. Add the grated parmesan. Simmer over low heat while stirring until cheese is melted.
- Pour cooked pasta into the sauce, stir, and add bacon, chopped basil, and additional parmesan. Serve immediately.