Creamy Pasta with Bacon and Cheese (Pâtes aux Lardons et Comté)
Servings: 6 people
You may not think of pasta when you think of Paris, but now I will. This creamy rigatoni with bacon and comté cheese is an easy pasta recipe that’s comforting and elegant at the same time. It's rich and delicious, yet made with simple ingredients. Everything you expect French food to be.
- 1 lb dried rigatoni no. 24 size preferred
- 8 slices bacon
- 3 cups comté cheese, divided or gruyère
For the béchamel sauce recipe:
- 4 tbsp butter salted or unsalted
- 6 tbsp flour
- 4 cups whole milk
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
- pinch kosher salt
Grate the cheese and set aside.
Cook bacon, crumble into pieces and set aside. I cooked this in the microwave. No sense laboring over a skillet for this recipe. If this method is good enough for Jaques Pepin, it's good enough for me!
Fill a large, deep stock pot with water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, generously salt the water and add rigatoni. Cook to al dente according to package instructions. I recommend DeCecco no 24. Just use a nice big noodle of good quality.
Béchamel sauce recipe:
In the microwave or in a sauce pan over low heat warm the milk slightly. You’re just taking the chill off, not bringing it to a simmer.
In a separate pan over medium-low heat, melt the butter.
Then mix in the flour, and as soon as it starts to bubble, begin whisking constantly for about 2 minutes.
Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly to avoid any lumps. Once all milk is incorporated, bring it to a low boil and continue to whisk occasionally as it thickens, about 4 – 5 minutes.
Once thickened, remove from heat and whisk in the salt and paprika.
Assemble the pasta dish:
Once the pasta is al dente, drain quickly in a colander and immediately return to the same pot.
Add the béchamel sauce to the noodles and incorporate thoroughly. Make sure it's well mixed, with sauce coating the noodles inside and out.
Then add 1 ¾ cups of the cheese and incorporate.
Add ¾ of the bacon and mix together.
Transfer the pasta to a cast-iron skillet or an oven-proof baking dish. Top with remaining bacon, then add the remaining comté cheese in an even layer on top.
Place under the broiler until the cheese is bubbly and starts to turn golden brown. Comté is a very sturdy cheese and it will stand up to a fair amount of heat before it starts to turn golden brown. But as always, when broiling, be sure to leave the oven door cracked and keep a close eye on it so you don’t burn it.
Remove from the oven and serve immediately.
- You have to use the big rigatoni, and a quality brand. I tried this with a smaller-width, generic brand noodle and it just wasn’t good. I found De Cecco Rigatoni no. 24 worked perfectly and seemed exactly like what I had in Paris.
- Even though it is supposed to be a Mother Sauce, with what I thought would be one true formula, there are as many recipes for béchamel as there are types of French cheese. (probably.) I used one from David Lebovitz and found it to be the perfect texture and thickness for this creamy pasta recipe. I chose to add a bit of smoked paprika to complement the bacon, instead of using cayenne.
- If you can't find Comté cheese, gruyère will work, but it's a little stronger in flavor, so you might not want to use quite as much.
Calories: 870kcal | Carbohydrates: 71g | Protein: 39g | Fat: 47g | Saturated Fat: 25g | Cholesterol: 129mg | Sodium: 558mg | Potassium: 503mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 1220IU | Calcium: 869mg | Iron: 1.7mg