Slab bacon lets you get a thicker dice than presliced bacon that will hold its own in the pasta; if it's hard for you to find, just use thick-cut sliced bacon. Peppery watercress wilts well yet maintains a little crunch. It also adds a nice savory note, balancing the sweetness of the tomatoes and the saltiness of the bacon. Arugula would also work.
1 tablespoon plus 3/8 tsp. kosher salt, divided
10 ounce uncooked mezze rigatoni or penne pasta
2 ounces slab bacon, cut into 1/2-in. dice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound red or yellow cherry tomatoes, halved (about 3 cups)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
5 ounces watercress, coarsely chopped
1 ounce pecorino Romano cheese, grated
Est. added sugars 0g
How to Make It
Bring a large saucepan filled with water and 1 tablespoon salt to a boil. Add pasta and cook 10 minutes or until al dente. Drain in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.
Place bacon and olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-low; cook 8 minutes or until the bacon is crisp, stirring occasionally. Remove bacon from pan (do not wipe out pan).
Heat pan over medium. Add tomatoes, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper to drippings in pan; cook 5 minutes or until tomatoes are tender and almost melt, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Stir in half of the cooked bacon.
Increase heat to medium-high. Add pasta to pan; toss to coat. Add 1/2 cup reserved pasta cooking liquid and watercress, stirring until watercress wilts. Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup reserved pasta cooking liquid to pan as needed to loosen sauce. Divide pasta mixture among 4 shallow bowls; sprinkle evenly with remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Top servings evenly with remaining half of bacon and cheese.
Recipe adapted with permission from Back Pocket Pasta: Inspired Dinners to Cook on the Fly, by Colu Henry.