Pasta gratin with bacon and thyme
This is a great winter dish for the younger set. And guess what? For the older set, too. Serve it as a main dish with a salad for a light supper, or as a side dish with meat, poultry or fish. For a vegetarian version, omit the bacon.
I like using tortiglioni for this gratin, but sometimes prepare it with other large tubular pasta, for example penne or pipe rigate. Depends what’s on hand. As for the quantity of dry pasta, my rather unorthodox method is: one large mugful per person. Works every time! If you prefer to measure by weight or with measuring cups, see instructions below.
1/2 pound (200 g.), or 3 cups, large tubular pasta
1 tsp. sea salt
2 tsp. olive oil
1/4 pound (100 g.) thick bacon
1/2 cup (10 cl) crème fraîche or heavy cream
1 clove garlic
1 branch fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 pound (100 g.) comté, gruyère or a similar cheese
Bring a large pot of water to a boil with the sea salt. Add the pasta and cook until tender, according to the instructions on the box. Drain.
Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (400 F, 200 C).
Oil a medium-sized gratin dish or a glass or ceramic baking dish with 1 tsp. olive oil.
Chop the bacon into lardons: square sticks about 1 inch (2.5 cm) long. Heat the remaining 1 tsp. olive oil to sizzling in a skillet. Fry the bacon. Drain through a sieve.
Peel and mince the garlic. In a large bowl, combine the cream, garlic, thyme leaves, bacon and pasta. Mix well. Grind in some black pepper and taste. Add salt as desired.
Grate the cheese and sprinkle it over the pasta.
Bake 20 minutes or until bubbly and golden on top. Serves 2.