Pasta with Bacon, Onion, Tomato and Bay Leaves


  • Salt
  • 1 pound whole wheat gemelli or penne pasta
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 thick-cut chunk of pancetta (about 1/3 pound), chopped into small dice
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 3 fresh bay leaves
  • 4 cloves garlic, grated or finely chopped
  • 1 can Italian San Marzano tomatoes (28 ounces)
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • Black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano or other sheep’s milk cheese


Place a large pot of water over high heat to boil. Salt boiling water liberally and cook the penne to al dente – leave a good bite to it.

While the pasta water is coming up to a boil, heat a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat with the EVOO, three turns of the pan. To hot EVOO, add the pancetta and crisp for 3-4 minutes, then add the onions, bay leaves and garlic. Cook the onions until very soft and tender, 7-8 minutes.

Place a colander over a bowl and add the tomatoes. Stir the tomatoes in the colander with a wooden spoon to crush them up. Heads up from Rachael: “If your market carries crushed San Marzano tomatoes, of course skip this step. My market only carries the whole imported tomatoes and I think the imports are worth it for this particular sauce.”

Add the crushed tomatoes and chicken stock to the pan and season with lots of black pepper and a little salt. Let the sauce reduce while you cook off the penne.

Drain pasta and toss with the sauce for 1 minute. Remove the bay leaves and serve the pasta with lots of grated Pecorino Romano or sheep’s milk cheese.

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Rachael Ray