This pasta dish was inspired by my very first casual job which feels like it was donkey’s years ago – at Cafe Tropez. Soph and I worked there for a couple of years as teenagers and my favourite dish on the menu (apart from the hot chips with aioli and chicken risotto) was their tomatoey/creamy pasta which I remember used to have chicken and bacon in it. I used to love that job, even if it was only for the staff meals!
Now are you the type of person that orders the same pasta dish every time you go to an Italian restaurant? I am. I’m a creature of habit. So is Corks. We normally go for a spaghetti in an olive oil based sauce with garlic and heaps of chilli flakes, a pepperoni pizza and garden salad to share. The girls are always happy with their penne bolognese and of course don’t forget to order the garlic bread.
This isn’t something that I would normally order anymore, but I’ve been making this pasta dish at home for as long as I can remember, based on my memory of the Cafe Tropez dish. I play around with what veggies I add, but the base of the pasta sauce is always the same (see Lo’s tips below).
If you’re tired of cooking the same old pasta dishes time and time again and are looking for something a little bit different then give this a go. It’s comforting, filling and is enjoyable to make, being so quick and easy. Perfect for a weeknight dinner.
So here’s the recipe for my Cafe Tropez penne pasta. A nod to the past.
Hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
penne with chicken + bacon + spinach in a tomato + cream sauce (serves 4)
1 x large chicken breast, cut in to thin pieces
1 x brown onion, finely chopped
2 x garlic cloves, crushed
2 x large rashers of bacon, finely chopped
1/2 a red capsicum, finely chopped
1 x cup of thickened cream
2 x cups of tomato passata
1 x teaspoon of brown sugar
Light sprinkling of dried parsley
Light sprinkling of chilli flakes
Good handful of baby spinach leaves
400 grams of penne pasta, cooked in salted water
Dash of olive oil
Salt and freshly cracked pepper
Grated parmesan cheese, to serve
- In a large fry pan, heat a splash of oil and brown the chicken. Season with salt and pepper here and once cooked, reserve on to a clean plate.
- In the same fry pan, add a little dash of olive oil, throw in the bacon, onion and garlic and cook, stirring, for approximately 5 minutes.
- Add the capsicum and continue to cook until the veggies are soft and bacon is nicely browned.
- Meanwhile, pop the pasta on to cook in a large saucepan of salted boiling water.
- Next, add the passata, sugar, chilli flakes, parsley and season with salt and pepper to the fry pan. Stir over a medium heat.
- Add the cream and stir.
- Add the chicken back to the pan and the baby spinach leaves. (They won’t take long to wilt).
- Strain the pasta and mix it through the sauce.
Serve with grated parmesan.
- You can substitute the baby spinach and capsicum with mushrooms and zucchini if you like.
- Similarly, you could replace the parmesan with grated tasty cheese if that’s what you have handy.
- Obviously use whatever pasta you like, such as fettuccini, bow tie pasta or spiral pasta. There’s something about penne that I really like for this dish though.
- You could also replace the bacon with salami or chorizo for a different flavour all together. That would work well with the red capsicum too.
- It is often a good idea to add a little bit of sugar when using tomatoes to balance out the acidity. Obviously, you don’t need to add this if you don’t want.
If you make this pasta, please leave your comments below, or post your pic on Insta, tagging #los_kitchen. xx