We had to open up a new package of bacon on Friday so I could cook a few up to serve along side those French Toast Sticks. Before I snuck the rest of the package in the freezer (I like to separate the bacon, place on a long roll of saran wrap, add another piece on top and wrap up for easy access to individual pieces), I crisped up a few extra slices to make this BLT Penne Pasta Toss for tonight's dinner.
To give the creamy sauce a boost in flavor, I decided to use those funky Laughing Cow swiss cheese wedges instead of the regular cream cheese the recipe called for. We've been using those soft wedges to spread on crackers for a few years now... tasty stuff! The only other ingredients the sauce contains are milk and fresh grated Parmesan cheese - these three ingredients are heated in a large skillet until the cheeses melt and the sauce bubbles and thickens. The crumbled crisp bacon is stirred in, along with tender fresh baby spinach, a cup of grape tomatoes and a sprinkling of Italian seasoning. With white sauces, especially those containing spinach, we always add a pinch of fresh grated nutmeg - you probably couldn't pick it out, but it just adds that little something special.
After a few minutes of simmering, the spinach wilts and the tomatoes had ever-so-slightly softened. A mound of al dente penne is stirred in and the dish is complete. The smooth sauce had a rich mouth feel, thanks to the soft cheese, but it was not at all heavy either. One thing I might do differently is halve the tomatoes before hand - while it was quite flavorful chomping down on one of the whole pieces, the burst of liquid was quite hot (and not the enjoyable spicy kind!). Try not to skimp on the bacon - besides adding a textural contrast to the tender pasta and spinach, the salty bite lifted up the light sauce, adding another dimension.
BLT Penne Pasta Toss