Sunday, November 18, 2007

Well, I finally did it ...

I broke down and invited some friends over for dinner. I'm not sure why we waited so long. We had lots of excuses. The house is too messy, not enough room at the table, not sure what to cook, we're too busy, everyone is too busy. The list could go on and on. Last night we were supposed to go out with some friends. Babysitter plans suddenly fell through when ds wasn't going to be home from his wrestling meet until 8:00. As I was sitting at basketball practice, I left a crazy message on our friends phone to just come on down to our house for dinner then we could go out afterwards. Of course as soon as I hung up I realized exactly what that entailed. We were busy for a couple of hours with sports practices and sign-ups. I hadn't been to the store in a week. The house was a mess. More the the point, the kitchen looked like a monsoon had swept through. And, after paying property taxes this week, I was broke. I raced home, got the kids busy cleaning and gave dh fair warning of the change in plans. After I got the laundry started and the diswasher loaded, I pulled out all my Rachael Ray cookbooks and started looking for a recipes made from ingredients I already had on hand. I hit pay dirt in Express Lane Meals. I settled on Pasta with Bacon, Tomatoes and Cheese even though I'd not made it before because how can you go wrong with all that bacon and cheese. I had all the ingredients on hand and only had to run to the store for a loaf of Italian bread and a bagged salad. The main dish went together quickly. I tried to have it all prepped before they arrived so that saved a few minutes. I worked on the pasta while my friend tossed the salad and before the guys had finished their first drink, dinner was on the table. It looked good and tasted yummy, though I think if I was making it again I'd add a few more red pepper flakes to kick the heat up a notch. Since I was cooking for company I stuck with the recipe.

Things went so well that I've already invited some other friends over for dinner. ;-) Maybe 2008 will be the year that we finally develop a social life!

Pasta with Bacon, Tomatoes and Cheese

1 pound short-cut pasta
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4 bacon slices -- chopped
1 large onion -- chopped
4 large garlic cloves -- chopped
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Black pepper
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 pint grape tomatoes
1 ball fresh mozzarella -- cut into 1/4 inch dice
1 bunch fresh chives -- chopped
15 fresh basil leaves -- chopped or torn
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Place a large pot of water with a tight-fitting lid over high heat and bring to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, add some salt and the pasta. Cook according to package directions until al dente. Heads up: you need to reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid before you drain the pasta.

While the pasta is cooking, start the sauce. Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat; add the EVOO. Add the chopped bacon and cook, stirring ever now and then, until crispy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the onions, garlic, red pepper flakes, and a little salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, or until the onions start to brown. Add the white wine and cook for 1 minute. Add the chicken stock and reserved pasta cooking liquid, then bring up to a bubble and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the grape tomatoes and cook them for about 30 seconds, just to start getting them hot and ready to burst. Add the cooked, drained pasta, toss to coat in the sauce, and let some of the sauce soak in, about 1 minute. Turn the heat off and add the diced mozzarella, the chives, basil, grated cheese, and black pepper to taste. Serve.

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