This creamy bacon pasta with spinach is saucy and delicious with fresh greens, Parmesan, and smoky bacon. It is perfect cold-weather comfort food. And can even be made with gluten-free pasta or veggie-noodles if needed.
How to Make Creamy Bacon Pasta with Spinach
There is nothing like perfectly cooked pasta with any kind of sauce, chicken or veggies, but this one is extra special. There is an easy sauce made with just heavy cream and Parmesan cheese. You should use real Parmesan for the best flavor rather than the canisters of powder you can buy at the store.
It will make all of the difference, trust me! Plus, a whole block will last a good chunk of time and you will be able to simmer the rind in homemade minestrone or tomato sauce.
Cooking the Fusilli
To start making the creamy bacon pasta, you will want to bring a large Dutch oven or pot of salted water to a boil. It is always ideal to boil more water than you think you will need for pasta as it will absorb some of it as it is cooking. Moreover, the pasta will cook more evenly.
A Dutch oven will work here if that is what you have. As for salt, you want the water to taste salty like the sea by adding approximately 2 tablespoons for a large pot. This may seem like a lot of salt, but it will ensure that your noodles are adequately seasoned. Most of the salt will drain out with the water as well.
Al dente is the ideal texture for dry pasta, which means that it should be cooked through but still have some texture. You can cook according to package directions as they will give you the most realistic timing for your brand of pasta. Before draining, remember to scoop out some of the cooking water to add to your sauce. The starchy water will ensure the sauce sticks to your pasta and will also thin out the sauce.
Cooking the Bacon
While you are cooking your pasta, you can cook some bacon in a skillet or pan until it is nice and crispy. Once cooked, simply drain it on paper towels, and chop or crumble it into small pieces until you are ready to add it to this bacon pasta recipe.
Making the Sauce
Next, return the skillet to the stove with the bacon fat and cook the onion until translucent. While you may be inclined to discard the bacon grease, it really helps to flavour the dish. Also, sauteing the onion adds some sweetness to an otherwise rich dish. Afterward, add the minced garlic, which will only need 1 minute to become fragrant. At this point, you can add the spinach, which will look like a lot at first but will wilt down quite quickly.
The next step is to add your heavy cream (whipping cream) and pasta water to the spinach, which will make it saucy. Afterward, you can toss in the Parmesan cheese, salt and black pepper to taste, and the bacon before simmering it until thickened. A wider skillet will mean a faster time to reduce the sauce so keep a watchful eye to ensure you don’t reduce the sauce too much. Next, the cooked pasta gets tossed in until coated before being served with some parsley and extra cheese for garnish. If you love a very peppery carbonara ordinarily, you might enjoy topping your pasta with plenty of freshly cracked black pepper at the end.
What if I Don’t Have All of the Ingredients on Hand?
If you don’t have everything available to you to make this creamy pasta, you can probably still make it. Most people have at least some dry pasta, onion, garlic, and bacon (pancetta also works) in their kitchen, so you will probably be fine with those. Ideal replacements for fusilli would be a similar-sized pasta such as farfalle or rotini. However, noodles that don’t have the nooks and crannies, like spaghetti, are not ideal as they won’t hold the sauce as well.
If you don’t have spinach available, peppery arugula or baby kale are good substitutes. Both have stronger flavours than spinach but won’t result in any less delicious of a dish.
This is also a great creamy pasta dish for if you have any vegetables you need to use up quickly. Diced bell peppers, broccoli, peas, green beans, or mushrooms are all great additions that you can sauté with the onions until tender.
Also, while it wouldn’t result in as rich of a sauce, you could easily include a higher fat milk in place of the whipping cream. Heavy cream is perfect for coating the noodles but whole milk could work too.
Serving the Pasta
While you may want to enjoy this pasta on its own, it is especially good with some side dishes. For homemade garlic bread, you could spread thick crusty slices of bread with soft butter mixed with chopped herbs and fresh minced garlic before baking it in the oven until golden. Alternatively, a store-bought freezer bread that you simply have to bake at home will also work well. Meanwhile, a green salad is also an excellent choice to have with your pasta such as one filled with Italian ingredients like sundried tomatoes, pepperoncini, olives, bell peppers, marinated red peppers, and more. Iceberg lettuce or fresh arugula, or a mixture of hearty winter greens are all great as a side salad with this pasta dish.
How to Reheat Leftover Creamy Bacon Pasta
While cream-based pasta dishes don’t always reheat the best, there are a few ways to ensure that they result in something that is still as delicious as the original. I recommend placing the portion you would like to heat up in a skillet with a little extra water or cream and placing it over low heat to gently warm through.
You should simultaneously toss the mixture once in a while to ensure that the noodles heat up evenly. The noodles may lose some of the texture they had before, but adding the extra liquid will ensure a nice creamy sauce.
You could also try heating it in a bowl in the microwave. To do this, heat it on low with extra water or cream. In this case, you should toss stop the microwave and stir it every 15 to 30 seconds, until heated throughout.
Other Pasta Recipes You’ll Love:
Creamy Bacon Pasta with Spinach
This creamy bacon pasta with spinach is saucy and delicious with wilted greens, briny Parmesan, and smoky bacon. The rich and creamy concoction makes a perfect warming combination for the cooler weather months. Plus, picky eaters will love it while getting some fresh veggies in!
- 1 pound fusilli pasta
- 4 ounces bacon 4-6 slices
- 1/2 onion finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 6-8 cups fresh spinach roughly chopped
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup pasta cooking water
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
- salt & pepper
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the fusilli pasta until al dente (check package instructions; it should be 9-12 minutes).
Reserve some of the pasta water for the sauce, before draining the noodles.
In a large skillet cook the bacon slices until crispy. Transfer to a paper towel to drain. Crumble into small pieces once cooled.
Sauté the chopped onion in the bacon grease until translucent. Add the minced garlic and sauté until fragrant (1 minute). Stir in the chopped spinach and cook until starting to wilt.
Add in the heavy cream and reserved pasta water. Stir in grated parmesan and season sauce with salt and pepper, and add the crumbled bacon.
Simmer the sauce until it starts to thicken. Add the fusilli pasta and stir to combine.
Sprinkle the creamy bacon pasta with chopped parsley and extra parmesan for serving.
Keep some pasta water aside. In case the sauce becomes too thick, you can use the pasta water to thin it out again. This works for reheating leftovers as well.