This easy and sophisticated pasta with pancetta is a perfect meal for entertaining or for everyday dining. You’ll love the smoky tomato sauce!
Why you’ll love it: It’s a simple pasta dish that can stand alone or be served as a side.
How long it takes: 40 minutes
Equipment you’ll need: skillet, pasta pot
Sometimes a certain night just calls for pasta, right? Either you’re craving a bowl of comfort food, or you’re trying to impress someone, or you just want something everyone will love.
This pasta will fit into all those categories. It’s so flavorful with a really delightful smoky tomato sauce but it’s still a classic bowl of pasta.
About This Recipe
Sometimes the most simple things are the best, aren’t they? This pasta is so easy but so delicious and there are a lot of fun things you can do with it.
The recipe doesn’t have many ingredients and you can cook it all up in about the time it takes to boil a pot of pasta.
Choose a good quality pasta because it really makes a difference in this simple dish. It’s a nice opportunity to try a more unique pasta; think beyond plain spaghetti.
How To Make This Recipe
First, prep the onions, carrots, and bell pepper. Wash and cut them finely. We’re not talking about bite-sized or one inch chunks; you’ll want about a quarter inch dice.
Next, crisp up a package of pancetta in a skillet and set it aside. That will take about ten minutes. Transfer it to a plate lined with paper towels but reserve most of the rendered fat.
Now put a big pot of water on the stove over high heat. When it comes to a boil, stir in your pasta and set the timer.
While that’s going, you’ll create a simple sauce with canned tomatoes, and the diced vegetables you prepped. The sauce is seasoned with smoked paprika which gives it a warm cozy feel and so much flavor. Take five to seven minutes to sauté the veggies and another 10 minutes to simmer the sauce once you add the tomatoes.
When the pasta is done cooking, drain it but reserve a cup or so of pasta water. You’ll stir that starchy water into your sauce as needed to create just the right texture. Fold the cooked pasta into the sauce, add the crisp pancetta and fresh green parsley.
Dinner is ready! This pasta dish can be served on its own or as a side dish.
Pancetta is a fully cured meat and can be eaten uncooked. Often, it’s fried until crisp and the flavorful rendered fat is used to enhance sauces.
Pasta that is cooked perfectly is called al dente, or “to the tooth.” The best way to tell if your pasta is ready is to taste it. The pasta should be soft but not mushy. There should be a little firmness or resistance when you bite down. If the pasta seems woody or crunchy in the center, it’s not ready yet.
Pasta packages usually have a recommended cooking time. Start checking the pasta a minute or so before the time is up.
Make It Your Own
There are a few ways to tweak this recipe to make it your own.
- Sprinkle with Parmesan or mozzarella cheese before serving.
- Add more vegetables. I like the combo of red bell peppers, carrots, and onion, but this sauce is also great with mushrooms, spinach, or kale. Garlic is a good addition, too.
- Increase or decrease the smokiness. You can add as much or as little smoked paprika as you’d like. Just remember you can always add more, but you can’t take it out!
- Add some heat with a pinch of red pepper flakes. Minced garlic is really great, too.
- If you have fresh tomatoes you’d like to use, try my fresh tomato pasta. It’s a perfect summer time recipe because the sauce isn’t cooked.
Storage & Reheating Tips
Refrigerate: Store leftover pasta, covered, in the refrigerator for up to four days.
Freeze: This pasta freezes well, too. Store it in a freezer-safe container or freezer bag. It will keep for 3 months.
Reheat: For individual portions, microwave until warmed through. Larger portions can be reheated in a skillet. Add a bit of water if the pasta seems dry. Pasta continues to absorb liquid — it’s like a sponge.
What to serve with this pasta
- Crusty bread (try this no-knead Dutch oven bread) with Italian dipping oil
- Chive bread or Italian herb and cheese pull-apart bread.
- Green salad with homemade healthy ranch dressing or homemade Italian dressing. Make the salad with crisp green romaine lettuce, thinly sliced red onion, kalamata olives, and homemade croutons. A classic salad like this arugula salad is a good choice too. It has an amazing lemon basil vinaigrette.
- Don’t forget dessert! Try easy crème brûlée for two (make it in a slow cooker) or a no-bake chocolate tart.
- 8 ounces pancetta, cut into small cubes
- 1 small yellow onion, diced small (about 1 cup)
- 1 carrot, peeled and diced small (about ½ cup)
- 1 red bell pepper, diced small (about 1 cup)
- 1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika, more to taste
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 pound pasta (I like to use cellentani)
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley, extra for garnishing
- Put a large pot of water over high heat to boil for the pasta.
- In a large deep skillet, cook pancetta over medium high for 10 minutes or until crispy. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Drain some of the fat from the pan, leaving about 1 tablespoon.
- Add onion, carrot, and red bell pepper to skillet, and cook until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes and smoked paprika, and bring to a boil. Simmer rapidly for about 10 minutes or until sauce has thickened.
- Meanwhile, salt your pasta water and cook pasta according to the package. Reserve ¾ to 1 cup of the pasta water when the pasta has finished cooking and before you drain it.
- Drain pasta (don’t forget to reserve some of the water). Add the pasta to the sauce in the skillet, stirring to combine. If necessary, add reserved pasta water, a tablespoon at a time, to bring the sauce to desired consistency.
- Add pancetta and chopped parsley and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve garnished with additional fresh parsley.
- Store leftover pasta in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
- If desired, top pasta with grated or shredded Parmesan cheese or shredded mozzarella cheese.
- Instead of, or in addition to, carrots or peppers, try finely chopped mushrooms.
- Add finely minced garlic or red pepper flakes, if desired. Add them to the pan a minute before you add the tomatoes and cook until fragrant.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.
Note: This post, recipe & photos were updated October, 2019.