Photo: Randy Mayor; Styling: Cindy Barr 
Hands-on Time
55 Mins
Total Time
55 Mins
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.

How to Make It

Step 1

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

Step 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.

Step 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.

Ratings & Reviews


June 27, 2015
This dish tastes amazing! It is a labor of love to slowly add the stock, but even my bf who NEVER cooks can make this dish and enjoys doing it. The flavors are light but tasty. I think the type of cheese you use matters, as you need a hint of salt to enhance the flavors, so we chose a Romano instead of parm. The recipe calls for as much garlic as it does to act as a flavor enhancer in place of salt, but if you're not that big on garlic, just know you'll have to add salt instead. Either that or use a saltier cheese as we did. In the end we loved this dish, the lemon, toasted penne, bacon, it just all comes together so deliciously in a just barely there cream sauce. We will definitely be making again and again.

liafinney's Review

December 03, 2014
Agree with other reviewers that this takes quite a bit longer than indicated,but it is an interesting approach to a pasta dish. I used chopped pancetta instead of bacon,and was surprised at how quickly the pasta toasted up...keep an eye on it and keep stirring or you may easily burn it. Other than that, a very simple recipe. After the first 2 additions of stock, I quit the stirring for the first 3-4 min and just let the stock come to a low boil and only stirred at the last few minutes when the stock was nearly absorbed. Not sure this is a technique I'd use again, but it was different!

daneanp's Review

August 20, 2014
Well, this is very tasty but definitely NOT a good choice for a work night meal. Like others have noted, it took much longer than the 35 minutes the recipe stated - I'd say closer to an hour. I actually increased the temp for the pasta to med-high and let the broth simmer in the pasta for 8 minutes between additions and I didn't really stir all that much. I'd definitely make this again, just on a weekend when I have more time. It would make a great side dish too.

NatalieNG's Review

June 23, 2014
The amount of garlic and lemon is overpowering. Really use half the amount of lemon and a quarter of the garlic.

LDombeck's Review

March 04, 2014
I used turkey bacon and whole wheat penne in this. It was really, really good. But it took me 2x as long as the recipe states. I thought the whole wheat made it take longer, but I made the 2nd version with regular and it took the same amount of time. So, it was not great for a weeknight meal. My family loved it.

ArmeSmash's Review

February 03, 2014
I LOVE this recipe. Time consuming, but well worth it. I'm making it again tonight, but I'm going to try it with blue cheese in place of the Parmesan.

angelack's Review

February 02, 2014
I made this exactly per the recipe. I learned something new, that pasta can be cooked like risotto! that was cool. It was very good (four stars) but since i had to stand and stir it so much the tastiness:work ratio downgrades it slightly to three stars in my opinion. too much work for a weeknight, not tasty enough for a special occasion.

Twonspls's Review

January 27, 2014
While I am sure this recipe is delicious, do not use gluten free pasta. It turns to mush. I was very disappointed as I was excited by this new method.

Raymil6's Review

January 25, 2014
This recipe takes some time but is worth the effort my kids and husband loved the end result.

Kelly426's Review

January 16, 2014
This dish was incredible! I was skeptical at first during cooking if the sauce would come together, but it turned out to be "creamy" and delicious with many levels of flavor. You don't need to stir constnatly, but it does require frequent attention which may have been Snotnose's (interesting name for a recipe website profile) problem. I cooked the bacon about 90% through in the oven, then chopped it before adding to the shallots and garlic. This is a great recipe if you are looking to enhance your cooking skills and impress guests.