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Skillet-Toasted Penne with Bacon and Spinach

Photo: Randy Mayor; Styling: Cindy Barr


Hands-on time 55 mins
Total time 55 mins
Yield Serves 4 (serving size: 1 cup)
Here's a saucy, creamy pasta dish without a lick of cream or milk and only a wee bit of cheese. The trick is to cook the pasta like risotto, which releases starch into the liquid that becomes the sauce. The toasting step adds nutty, rich character and is a step we don't advise skipping.


  • 6 cups unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 8 ounces uncooked penne pasta
  • 1/2 cup sliced shallots
  • 8 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 4 center-cut bacon slices, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 6 ounces baby spinach
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 0.5 ounces grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (about 2 tablespoons)
  • Oregano leaves (optional)

Nutrition Information

  • calories 394
  • fat 11.8 g
  • satfat 3.1 g
  • sodium 601 mg

How to Make It

  1. Bring stock to a simmer in a saucepan (do not boil). Keep warm over low heat.

  2. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add pasta; cook 5 minutes or until toasted, stirring frequently. Remove pasta from pan.

  3. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, shallots, garlic, and bacon to pan; cook 4 minutes or until browned. Remove bacon mixture from pan. Reduce heat to medium-low. Return pasta to pan. Add stock, 1 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion of stock is nearly absorbed before adding the next (about 35 minutes total), stirring frequently. Stir in bacon mixture, juice, rind, spinach, salt, and cheese. Garnish with oregano, if desired.