I'm P.C., and I have studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France have broadened my culinary skill and palate. But my kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.

I live, mostly in my kitchen, in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Amber Ale Mac and Cheese

Amber Ale Mac and Cheese

I always get impatient for Fall.  It is slow to come here and doesn’t last long.  We have teasing days of cool temperatures scattered around October, but those are few between the warm, summery ones.  So when I finally start to feel that little nip in the morning air, and the light fades earlier, I turn my mind to comforting autumn cooking.

Nothing is more comforting in fall than a cheesy pasta casserole and this one has some extra, hearty twists.  In the tradition of Oktoberfest, this year I offer a hearty classic jazzed up with the refined taste of rich amber ale. I love it on its own, or as a side for grilled bratwurst or smoked sausage.

Amber Ale Mac and Cheese

You could add diced, sautéed kielbasa or bratwurst to this, or some cooked bacon.

16 ounces pasta (fusilli, elbows, penne)

5 Tablespoons butter, divided

¼ cup flour

1 Tablespoon ground mustard powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon paprika

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

dash of cayenne

2 ½ cups whole milk

¾ cup amber ale (I used John Courage)

¼ cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

dash of hot sauce to taste

2 cloves garlic, minced

8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated

8 ounces gouda cheese, grated

3 slices rye bread

1 Tablespoon butter, melted

Cook the pasta in a large Dutch oven of salted water for 1 minute less than the package instructions.   Drain the pasta thoroughly in a colander then return it to the pot.  Add 1 Tablespoon of butter and toss until it melts and coats the pasta.  This will prevent sticking.  Return the pasta to the colander while you make the sauce.

Use a fork to mix the flour, mustard, paprika, nutmeg, cayenne, salt and pepper together in a small bowl until evenly distributed. Measure the milk, beer, cream, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce into a large measuring jug and mix.

Wipe out the Dutch oven.  Melt the remaining ¼ cup butter (4 Tablespoons) in the pot over medium heat, then add the garlic and sauté for about a minute until fragrant.  Add the flour mixture and stir until a smooth paste forms, then slowly add the milk mixture, stirring until the sauce is thick.  Whisk the cheeses in a handful at a time, stirring to melt each addition completely before adding the next.  When all the cheese is melted, stir in the cooked pasta.  Taste and add salt if desired, then scrape into a greased 3-quart baking dish.

At this point, you can cool cover and refrigerate the mac and cheese overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°. Tear the bread into chunks and place in a small food processor.  Pulse until you have fine breadcrumbs, then add the melted butter and pulse until combined.  Sprinkle over the mac and cheese.  Bake until the casserole is warmed through, bubbling at the edges and the breadcrumbs are crispy.

Serves 4 – 6

Blistered Tomato Sauce

Blistered Tomato Sauce

Quick, simple and delicious. What more could you want in a summer meal?  The trick here is that blistering the tomatoes gives them a rich, almost slow-roasted taste.  I love this with the Italianate taste of oregano, but basil or thyme work wonderfully well too.  I generally serve this over pasta, but it makes a great topping for bruschetta or a pizza.

Blistered Tomato Sauce

1 pound cherry tomatoes

1 clove garlic, finely minced

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 Tablespoons chopped fresh oregano

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

salt and pepper to taste

Heat a large skillet over high heat until it is blisteringly hot. Flick a drop of water on it and it should dance and bounce around.  Tumble the tomatoes into the pan, reduce the heat to medium and cover the skillet.  Cook the tomatoes for 4 – 5 minutes, shaking the covered pan several times.

Remove the lid from the skillet and pour in the olive oil. The tomatoes will be slightly blackened and charred. Sprinkle over the garlic, oregano and sugar and stir. Simmer the sauce for 5 minutes or so, crushing the tomatoes with a spatula or the back of the spoon until you have a nice, chunky sauce.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Serves 2

White Bolognese Sauce

White Bolognese Sauce

It is that time.  My stock of frozen sauce made from summer’s freshest tomatoes is dwindling, and I am hoarding those last little bags.  Hey, I do like a sauce made from quality canned tomatoes as well (my standard Bolognese uses them), but after a steady diet of the fresh stuff, it’s heard to switch over.  That’s where this comes in.  A bridge Bolognese if you like, between the deep cold of the winter and the tomatoes of summer.  This sauce is hearty and warming, but somehow brighter than a rich, deep red Bolognese.

And this recipe represents what I think home cooking is all about.  Blending and creating and combining until you find the taste that suits you.  I first saw white Bolognese on a menu at an Italian restaurant, but I couldn’t picture what that meant, so I didn’t order it.  But a friend at the table did, and ate every bite.  That made me curious.  So I researched and read a lot of recipes and figured out this version that features the flavors I like.  The combination of veal and fennel-laced Italian sausage, mild leeks and the punch of fresh fennel.  White wine instead of red gives the characteristic zing.  I shy away from traditional Bolognese ingredients; this doesn’t need onion or garlic or carrots, basil or oregano.  This is not some kind of substitute for red sauce, but a creation all to itself. What this lacks in looks, it more than makes up for with punchy, bright flavors.

White Bolognese Sauce

1 pound ground veal (or pork)

1 pound Italian sausage meat

1 medium fennel bulb

2 stalks celery

1 leek, white and light green part only

¼ cup olive oil

1 bottle (750-ml) dry white wine

4 cups chicken broth

6 large fresh sage leaves

½ teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle

1 cup milk

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

½ cup heavy cream

Crumble the veal and sausage meat into a large Dutch oven and cook over medium high heat until cooked through, but not deep brown.  Break up the pieces into small bits as you cook.  Pour the meat into a colander and drain off the fat and juices.  Wipe any brown bits from the bottom of the pot.

While the meat is cooking, cut the vegetables.  Cut stalks of the fennel and set aside, then cut the fennel bulb in half and cut out the hard core.  Dice into very small pieces.  String the celery and cut into very small pieces.  Cut the leeks into quarters, rinse thoroughly and cut into small pieces.  The key here is that no bite is overwhelmed with a huge piece of any one flavor.

Put the oil into the pan, add the vegetables and cook, stirring frequently, until they are soft and wilted and translucent.  Add 1 cup of the wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until the wine is evaporated.  Put the meat back in the pot with the vegetables and stir to combine.  Add the remaining wine and cook until it has all evaporated, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

Finely chop the sage leaves and a small handful of the feathery fronds from the fennel. Add the chicken broth, sage and fennel fronds to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken broth has evaporated, a good 20 minutes.  Give it a good stir a few times.  When the broth is almost all gone, stir in the fennel seeds.

When the broth is evaporated, stir in 1 cup of milk and the nutmeg and bring to a nice bubble.  Cook until the milk has reduced slightly and just coats the meat.

The sauce can be made several hours ahead and kept covered in the fridge.  Reheat gently over medium-low heat.

Before serving (after keeping or if serving immediately), stir in the heavy cream until heated through.  Spoon over pasta.

Serves 4

Citrus Shrimp Linguine

Citrus Shrimp Linguine

It’s winter.  Generally, it’s cold and grey, though here in Memphis, the months are punctuated with weirdly frustrating days of seventy degree weather.  I love winter food, but I have souped and stewed and braised myself silly and I’m ready for something lighter and fresher.  This recipe started as just that.  A quick whip-up with the last citrus at the bottom of the fruit bowl and some shrimp from the freezer.  But this good enough to share, and could not be a quicker family meal or company dish.

Big juicy shrimp remind me of summer, and citrus is sometimes the one spot of sunshine in the winter foodscape.  Add a little garlic and fresh, leafy parsley and this is a bright, sunny dish.  A touch of cream adds some body, but mostly this sauce just glazes the pasta and shrimp with zest.  Use a high-quality olive oil to make sure the citrus really shines.

Citrus Shrimp Linguine

12 ounces linguine

1 orange

1 lemon

1 lime

3 garlic cloves

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup heavy cream

small handful flat leaf parsley leaves, plus more for sprinkling

1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined

salt and pepper

Cook the linguine in a pot of well-salted water according to the package instructions.  Drain the pasta, reserving a little of the cooking water.

Grate the zest the orange, lemon and lime into the carafe of a blender.  Juice the citrus to produce ¾ cup juice combined.  Add the juice to the blender with the garlic, parsley, olive oil, cream, 1 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of black pepper.  Blend until smooth.

Pour the sauce into a large skillet or pot that will hold the pasta.  Bring to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes until the sauce is slightly thickened.  Add the shrimp and cook, turning once, until cooked through. They will be pink and firm and curled tightly.  Immediately add the pasta to the pot and a couple of Tablespoons of cooking water.  Use tongs to toss everything together, coating all the pasta with the sauce.

Serve immediately sprinkled with a little chopped fresh parsley.

Serves 4

Pasta with Chestnuts, Pancetta and Sage

This recipe was born from my love for chestnuts, and my overzealous purchase of them before Thanksgiving. I include chestnuts in my dressing, and when I see them on the shelves, I go a little nuts and always buy more than I need.  So after that holiday madness dies down, I find ways to use them in other recipes.  And by that point I have heard “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” on the radio at least once.  This dish doesn’t take long to prepare, but makes an elegant, unique meal break during this crazy season.  Time to take breath and enjoy time together.

Chestnuts are nutty and slightly sweet and pair beautifully with woodsy sage and salty pancetta.  I readily find packages of pre-diced pancetta at markets, but if you don’t, go to the deli counter and ask them to give you a couple of thick slices and dice those into bits.  Thin sliced pancetta does not work as well.  In the photos, I used a short, twisted pasta labeled “torcetti”, but any short, thick pasta will work, like fusilli or casarecce. Orecchiette would work as well.  The chunks of pancetta and chestnut get lost in long pastas.  And I will admit, this is enough pasta to serve 4 people with a salad and some nice bread, but for big eaters, it may only serve 2!

Pasta with Chestnuts, Pancetta and Sage

10 ounces dried pasta

4 ounces diced pancetta

1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage, plus several large leaves

4 ounces roasted chestnuts, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup white wine

1 cup heavy cream

Salt and pepper to taste

Parmesan cheese

Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water, according to package instructions. Drain the pasta in a colander.

While the pasta is cooking, sauté the pancetta in a sauté pan, large enough to hold the pasta, over medium heat until it is cooked through and crispy.  Use a slotted spoon to remove the pancetta to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.  Drop a few sage leaves into the hot drippings and fry until deep green then remove to the paper towels. (This helps flavor the sauce, and the fried leaves are a wonderful garnish).  Drop the chopped chestnuts into the drippings and sauté until they are a deep tan color, smell nice and nutty and start to crisp up, about 5 minutes.  Remove with the slotted spoon to the paper towels. Turn the heat off under the pan and let the drippings cool for a minute.  Drop the garlic in the pan for just a minute (don’t let it burn or turn dark), then pour in the wine.  Turn the heat on high and bring the wine to a boil. Sprinkle in about ¾ of the Tablespoon of the chopped sage.  Cook until the wine is reduced by half and is thickened and syrupy, about 5 minutes.   Add the cream, lower the heat to medium and simmer until heated through and slightly thickened.

Add the drained pasta to the sauce in the pan and toss to coat, stir in the pancetta, chestnuts and remaining chopped fresh sage. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, with parmesan cheese grated over the top.

Serves 4 (or two if you are really hungry)

Creamy Italian Sausage and Pumpkin Manicotti

As I remember it, trick or treating is hard work.  Lots of walking, in what is invariably an uncomfortable costume, that heavy bag of candy and keeping your best manners on under all that stress.  But the promise of a seemingly endless supply of fun-size candy bars made it all worthwhile.  I even liked the stripey, crunchy peanut butter Mary Janes and the peanut taffy in the orange and black wrappers.  Then there was the dentist down the street, who gave the “special” neighborhood kids a toothbrush, while any other kids got granola bars.

So after a hard slog of candy hunting, it’s nice to come home to warm, comforting seasonal dinner.  And what could be more perfect on Halloween than pumpkin?  This creamy, cheesy casserole can be made ahead, and popped in the oven to cook while you’re out and about.  The meaty sausage and melty cheese are perfect, with a subtle pumpkin flavor that will satisfy little tummies (and grown-up appetites) before the sugar rush sets in.

Creamy Italian Sausage and Pumpkin Manicotti

For the Manicotti:

1 (8-ounce) package manicotti pasta shells

1 pound sweet Italian sausage, bulk or casings removed

1 medium yellow onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

7 fresh sage leaves, chopped

1 (15-ounce) container ricotta cheese

1 cup pumpkin puree, from a 15-ounce can

1 cup shredded parmesan cheese

2 cups shredded mozzarella or Italian cheese blend

For the Pumpkin Sage Béchamel Sauce:

2 Tablespoons butter

2 Tablespoons flour

2 cups milk

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

10 fresh sage leaves, very finely chopped

¾ cup pumpkin puree (the remainder from the manicotti recipe)

Salt and pepper to taste

For the Manicotti:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the manicotti according to the package instructions.  Cook the manicotti about 2 minute less than the recommended cooking time.  Drain the manicotti and rinse thoroughly with cold water to prevent sticking.

While the water is boiling and the manicotti is cooking, crumble the sausage into a large skillet and cook over medium high heat, breaking it up with a spatula, until it begins to brown.  Add the onion and ½ cup of water and cook, scraping the bottom of the pan, until the sausage is cooked through and no longer pink and the water has evaporated.  Stir in the garlic and chopped sage and cook for 2 more minutes.  Add the ricotta and pumpkin and stir until the filling is creamy and smooth.  Stir in the parmesan cheese until melted.  Leave the filling to cool to room temperature while you make the sauce.

For the Pumpkin Béchamel:

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat, then whisk in the flour until you have a loose, smooth paste.  Slowly whisk in the milk and cook over medium until the sauce is creamy and thickened.  Whisk in the nutmeg and chopped sage.  Stir in the pumpkin puree until combined and cook until lightly bubbling.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To assemble:

Spread about ½ cup of béchamel sauce over the bottom of a greased 9 by 13-inch baking pan, to prevent the pasta sticking to the bottom of the pan.  Stuff the manicotti shells with the filling and lay them over the sauce in the pan.  I admit, I am a bit of a manicotti cheat – I cut the shells open with a pair of scissors, place a line of filling down the center, roll it up, and place it seam side down in the pan.  If you have some leftover filling, tuck it in around the noodles.

Spoon the béchamel sauce over the noodles and gently spread it out to a thin layer covering the noodles.  Sprinkle the 2 cups of shredded mozzarella over the top of the manicotti.

The manicotti can be covered and refrigerated several hours or overnight at this point.  When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350°.  Bake the manicotti for 40 minutes, until heated through and bubbling.  If the cheese begins to brown, loosely cover the pan with foil.

Serves 6- 8

You might also like Spicy Chorizo, Pumpkin and Black Bean Chili, Pumpkin Cornbread, Chicken Enchiladas with Pumpkin Sauce, or Candy Corn Mousse.

Kielbasa Pasta with Honey Mustard Sauce

We are in the transitional season.  Not quite full on fall, but summer vacation is definitely over. This is a nice, hearty pasta with flavors that bridge that gap between summer and fall.  Stone ground mustard provides a nice tang and texture, but the hit of the bright yellow version deepens the mustard flavor.  The honey adds a subtle sweetness that pairs well with the meaty kielbasa.  And I love the little scoops of orecchiette because they cradle the sauce, sweet onions and chunky sausage in their hollows, creating perfectly balanced bites, but you could certainly use ziti or fusilli or a pasta of your choice.

Kielbasa Pasta with Honey Mustard Sauce

1 pound kielbasa

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 large yellow onion, diced

¾ pound orecchiette pasta

3 Tablespoons butter, divided

2 Tablespoons flour

1 cup chicken broth

1 cup milk

2 Tablespoons stone ground mustard

1 Tablespoon yellow mustard

2 Tablespoons honey

Salt and pepper to taste

Chop the kielbasa into bite sized cubes.  Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat and cook the kielbasa until browned and cooked through. I like to use a large pan that will fit the pasta when it is cooked.  Transfer the kielbasa to paper towels to drain.

Cook the orecchiette in a large pot of well-salted water according to package instructions until al dente.  Drain and toss with one Tablespoon of the butter to prevent sticking.

Add the chopped onions to the oil and fat in the pan and stir to coat.  When the onions begin to soften, add 1 cup of water, cover the pan and simmer until the onions are soft and caramelized, about 15 minutes.  Stir often to prevent sticking and add more water as needed.  When the onions are a nice toffee brown, uncover the pot and simmer until the liquid is evaporated.  Stir the onions into the cooked pasta.

Melt the remaining two Tablespoons butter in the sauté pan.  Whisk in the flour until smooth.  Slowly add the broth and milk, whisking constantly until thick and creamy.  Stir in the mustards and honey and season well with salt and pepper.  Simmer the sauce for about 5 minutes until thick and hot through.

Stir the pasta, onions and kielbasa together and add to the sauce.  Stir to coat thoroughly and cook over medium low until heated through.  Taste for seasoning and adjust.

Serve immediately.

Serves 4 – 6

Tomato, Brie and Herb Pasta

I’ve been making this dish for years, decades if I’m honest. I really thought it was my own unique creation, and I patted myself on the back for its genius every time I made it.  It’s been my date night dinner, my decadent solo treat and my impressive meal for friends.  I made it in my first apartment kitchen and shared it with my first house roommate.  It dates, for me, to a time when anything with brie seemed sophisticated and gourmet, before I had stretched my culinary wings too far.  But I just realized, when developing it and photographing it for The Spoon, that it’s not my recipe.  It’s from the classic Silver Palate Cookbook, which I have had for years.  My favorite recipes in the book are marked and stained – but oddly not this one. Oh, I’ve changed it up a little to suit my tastes, but it is definitely from the cookbook.  Recipes do that, they travel and share and move and become part of a family or a personal legend. I love looking through community cookbooks from different eras and different regions and finding the same basic recipe, maybe with a different name or spelling.  That’s one of the many magical aspects of cooking and feeding friends and family, the community built around good food.  And by the way, I also recently realized that I’ve been taking credit for Nigella Lawson’s lemon linguine for some time now too.

This really is the joy of summer in a delicious, creamy pasta dish.  And it’s quick to put together – just a bit of chopping.  Sweet cherry tomatoes really shine in this dish, with the nice firm bite preserved.  The simple sauce smells wonderfully summery and the brie melts and coats the pasta, making a rich and decadent cream sauce without the work and kitchen heat.

Tomato, Brie and Herb Pasta

Adapted from The Silver Palate Cookbook

1 cup fresh basil leaves, loosely packed

¼ cup fresh oregano leaves, loosely packed

2 cloves garlic

1 pound cherry tomatoes

1 pound Brie

¼ cup olive oil

Salt and pepper

1 pound linguine or spaghetti

Finely chop the basil and oregano and place in a large bowl that will hold all the cooked pasta.  Put the garlic through a press, or finely chop it, sprinkling a little salt over it during the process.  This helps mellow the garlic, you don’t want big chunks.

Cut the tomatoes in quarters, or chop them smaller if you’d like, and add to the bowl.  Scrape the rind off the cheese – you don’t have to be too precise about this, just do your best.  A serrated knife and cold cheese helps.  Cut the brie into small pieces, or pull it apart with your fingers, and add to the bowl.  Pour in the olive oil, add few good pinches of salt and grind in some fresh pepper.  Stir everything together, cover the bowl and leave at room temperature for a least an hour, but several hours is fine.  The tomatoes will release their juices and the cheese will become meltingly soft.

When you are ready to eat, bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the package directions until al dente.  Drain quickly, then pour the hot pasta over the sauce in the bowl.  Leave to sit for a few minutes to melt the cheese and heat the tomatoes through.  Toss the pasta and the sauce together until the pasta and tomatoes are well coated.  Salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.

Serves 4

Creamy Macaroni and Cheese with Country Ham and Leeks

From the first time I made macaroni and cheese, I’ve used this basic recipe, with the sauce you simply stir up.  We were not a big macaroni and cheese family, and never had any version from the box until college, when the hot pot was our main cooking apparatus and I had an ingenious roommate.  I think I might have originally found the recipe in a kids’ cookbook, but I don’t really remember.  The recipe served me well for years, particularly in a poorly equipped kitchen in graduate school.  And I just thought this was how mac and cheese was made.  It was years before I learned that most macaroni and cheese recipes start with a roux made into a cream sauce.  As I progressed in the kitchen, I started working on recipes made with béchamel sauce, white wine based sauces, an onion soubise, exotic cheeses and the like.  But for simple meals, I always came back to this method.  And I’ve really decided I like it better.  It’s very creamy, very cheesy, and of course could not be simpler.  So now I make it with cheese only, or flavorful add-ins.

This version is my favorite, and based on a macaroni and cheese served at a favorite restaurant.  I am sure they use a great more expertise and skill in making it, but I manage to get the flavors I love spot-on. I like corkscrew-y cavatappi pasta, but regular macaroni, or shells, or farfalle work equally well.  Once you have this simple, basic recipe down, you can alter it however you please – with different cheeses, added spices, bacon or roasted chicken…the possibilities are endless.

Creamy Macaroni and Cheese with Country Ham and Leeks

4 leeks

6 Tablespoons butter, divided

¼ cup white wine

8 ounces uncookedelbow macaroni or cavatappi noodles

8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese

8 ounces white cheddar cheese

4 ounces fontina cheese

2 cups whole milk

1/4 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

salt  and ground black pepper to taste

8 ounces country ham, finely diced

Preheat the oven to 375° Butter a 2 quart baking dish well.

Slice the white and palest green parts of the leek in half lengthwise, then slice into half-moons. Rinse the leeks very well in a colander under cool running water and shake to drain. Melt 4 Tablespoons butter in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat and add the leeks, with a little water clinging to them, and stir to coat.  Pour in the white wine and ¼ cup water, cover the pan and cook, stirring occasionally until the leeks are wilted, transparent and soft, about 20 minutes.  If needed, add a bit more water to prevent sticking.

Meanwhile, cook the macaroni according to package instructions in well-salted water.  Drain and return to the pan off the heat.  Stir 2 Tablespoons butter into the pasta to melt and coat to prevent sticking.  Leave to cool.

Grate all the cheeses and toss together.  In a bowl, whisk together the milk, flour, garlic powder, salt and black pepper.  Whisk well for at least a minute until the flour is completely mixed with the milk.

Toss together the cooled pasta and the most of the grated cheeses, reserving a few handfuls for the top of the dish. Stir in the leeks and diced country ham until evenly distributed. Pour over the milk mixture and stir thoroughly until well mixed.  Spoon into the buttered dish and spread out to create an even surface.  Sprinkle over the remaining cheese.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until golden on top and bubbling and heated through.

Serves 6, 8 as a side dish

Creamy Bacon and Spinach Rigatoni

I love a simple dish with a little something special.  This is such an easy weeknight dinner, with the smoky flavor of bacon, the bright color and fresh bite of spinach and a creamy sauce that is surprisingly simple.  I prefer to use regular spinach, not the baby spinach sold in the salad section, which I find really ticky to cut into pieces and remove stems.  I love the big, hearty tunnels of rigatoni, but any tubular pasta will work.

Creamy Spinach and Bacon Rigatoni

1 pound rigatoni pasta

6 strips of bacon

1 bunch of fresh spinach leaves

Clove of garlic, minced

1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta

Salt and pepper

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

½ cup of grated parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and cook the rigatoni according to the instructions on the package.

While the water is boiling and the pasta is cooking, cut the bacon into small pieces and cook it in a large sauté pan on high heat until crispy.  Meanwhile, rinse the spinach leaves, leaving a bit of water clinging to them. Remove the stems and roughly chop the leaves into manageable pieces.  They don’t need to be miniscule, but you don’t want long strands in the finished dish.

When the bacon is crispy, remove it with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate to drain.  Reduce the heat to medium and give the bacon grease a couple of minutes to cool down.  Add the garlic and cook for just a minute before dropping in the spinach.  Be careful as the water from the spinach will cause some spitting.  Stir to coat it all in the oil, cover the pan and cook for about three minutes until the spinach is bright green and wilted.  Add the ricotta and stir until it is smooth and creamy.  Generously salt and pepper the dish, and stir in the nutmeg.

Your pasta should be ready by now.  Dip out 1 cup of the pasta cooking water, then drain the rigatoni in a colander.  Add the rigatoni to the ricotta sauce and stir to coat well. Drop in the bacon pieces and add about ½ cup of the pasta water and stir to loosen up the sauce and coat the pasta.  Use more pasta water if you need Sprinkle the parmesan cheese over the top.

Serves 6