I am one of those people who believes that everything can be made better by including bacon with it. Got to wait in the car for hours? Have a bacon sandwich - makes it better straight away. Got a boring old chicken recipe on the list for dinner? Put some bacon with it - that'll cheer it up no end. Got to stand on the touchline watching your son put his best foot forward for the local footie team? A bacon roll can save the day. So I wasn't wrong when I chose bacon for the meat aspect of this pasta dish.
From hubby's point of view, it could have been made better by losing the garlic and adding some oregano. I thoroughly agree with him where the oregano is concerned - and have reflected that in the recipe set out below. I'm not so sure about the garlic, however, as I feel it lent a lovely savoury depth to the entire dish which helped to make it a cohesive whole as opposed to a number of different ingredients on the same plate.
Son & heir had a friend over for tea that day and I felt I was taking something of a risk presenting said friend with a) courgette & aubergine, b) cooked tomatoes and c) goat's cheese. However, I had confidence in the ability of the bacon to carry us through. I was using some of Spring Fields Butchers' beautiful smoked back bacon which is always fabulous in that the rashers are huge, thickly cut and tasty as anything. I would definitely go for some substantially sized rashers if you're going to be cooking this one - as limp thin bacon could wind up being too chewy when accompanying the soft vegetables and pasta.
We got a "thumbs up" from both boys, as they both cleared their plate and declared it to be "lovely" (and without a hint of sarcasm, too!). Amazing. Made me wish I'd included mushrooms in the mix! (Which is a very good idea, if you like mushrooms, by the way).
Hubby wasn't too keen on the fact that the dish didn't have a sauce with it - just relying on the juiciness of the roasted vegetables and goat's cheese wasn't enough for him. I suspect it's pure and simply a preference thing, as I was quite happy with the "sauceless" state and - to be honest - it made a pleasant change to not have an overwhelming cheese or tomato sauce. I felt it gave the vegetables a chance to shine on their own, without being overshadowed by a sauce. The rapeseed oil that I'd used to roast the vegetables was a lovely nutty flavoured one and the cherry tomatoes lent their juice to the overall picture.
The only thing missing was a lovely glass of wine, a patio and a warm evening!
ROASTED VEGETABLE AND BACON PASTA (feeds 4)
1 courgette , cut into one inch dice
half an aubergine, cut into one inch dice
a handful of cherry tomatoes, split across the stem end
1 red onion, halved and each half cut into four wedges
two cloves of garlic
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
1-2 tsp dried or fresh oregano
2 tbsp rapeseed oil or olive oil
500g back bacon
400g spirali pasta
50-100g Parmesan cheese (to taste)
a handful of fresh basil leaves, shredded
130g soft goat's cheese.
1. Pre-heat your oven to 180degC/350degF/Gas4 and prepare a baking tray large enough to carry all the vegetables. I usually cover the tray with non-stick silver foil, just because it makes the washing up easier!
2. Place all the vegetables, including the garlic, onto the roasting tray and sprinkle with seasoning, oregano and the oil. Using your fingers, toss the vegetables until they are well coated with the oil.
3. Place the tray into the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender and just beginning to caramelise.
4. In the meantime, get a big pan of salted water on to boil for the pasta and grill the bacon, cutting each rasher into largeish pieces with some scissors and retain, somewhere warm.
5. Once the pasta water boils, get the pasta in and cooking according to the packet instructions - usually 9-11 minutes.
6. Once the vegetables are tender, take them out of the oven and squash the two cloves of garlic into a paste.
7. When the pasta is cooked to your satisfaction, drain well and add the vegetables, bacon, parmesan, basil and some seasoning and mix gently to combine.
8. Spoon the pasta mixture onto warmed plates and break pieces of goats cheese over the top.