There are all sorts of meals.

There are those meals that mean nothing and that are forgotten as soon as the last mouthful is chugged down. All too many of my lunches are like that at the moment, frantic bites of sandwich or forkfuls of salad in between emails and conference calls.

Then there are those meals where the food makes a negligible contribution. I cannot remember a single thing that my boyfriend and I ate on our first date; I can’t even tell you what kind of food the restaurant served. I’m sure this is something to do with the large number of mojitos that I do remember but I like to think it’s just because we were talking so much that the food seemed somewhat incidental.

There are those meals which I can still taste. The dish of radishes, homemade fromage blanc and ancient grains that we ate at Commonwealth in San Francisco in the summer. The sharpness of the radishes and the creamy tartness of the cheese will linger long in my memory.

There are meals that are memorable for all the wrong reasons; storming out of a restaurant after a fight over lunch with my ex-boyfriend, throwing £20 (more than the cost of my lunch – I remember thinking that was a very important point) on the table as I ran out the door. Or the Valentine’s meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant that gave my boyfriend food poisoning.

Then there are those meals which are perfect in their simplicity and, in that moment, are all that you could possibly want.

This dish is inspired by one such meal, again in San Francisco in the summer. We arrived in San Francisco at about 7pm on a Thursday night after a long and slow two days in the car (and one night in a terrible hotel that we couldn’t wait to escape). We were tired and stiff and grumpy and, above all, hungry. A quick google led me to an Italian restaurant, close to our hotel. I can’t lie – proximity was one of the main reasons for the choice.

Although I tend to be drawn to lighter pasta dishes, on that night I became transfixed by the idea of the carbonara tortellini – little parcels of pasta stuffed with ricotta and sauteed in a sauce of pancetta, onion, red pepper flakes and cream. As soon as I saw the dish on the menu, I knew that it was exactly what I was craving. And it was perfect in every way.

In the weeks after, I found my mind wondering back to that dish. It was only natural that I would try to recreate it as soon as I got home. The real trick is to cook the onions low and slow; they should be sweet and sticky with no astringent crunch to them. The mellowness of the onions is balanced with the saltiness of the bacon (although the earthiness of mushrooms would also work nicely) and everything is bound together with a splash of white wine and a generous pour of cream. I served it with homemade orecchiette but any kind of pasta will do including, as the restaurant served it, a filled pasta like tortellini or cappelletti.

I wouldn’t advise eating something like this every night but, personally, I can’t think of many better ways to restore some equilibrium to my life.


Pasta with onions, bacon and cream
Inspired by a dish at Fino, San Francsico
Yield: Serves 4


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 6 rashers of bacon, chopped
  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • A glug (about half a glass) of white wine
  • 300ml (1 1/4 cups) double/heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 quantity of orecchiette or 300g (12oz) pasta

Cooking Directions

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the bacon and fry until thoroughly cooked. Remove the bacon from the pan and set aside, leaving behind any fat etc.
  2. Add more oil if necessary and heat over a medium heat until the oil is sizzling. Add the onions and garlic and cook for a minute or so before reducing the heat to medium-low. Cook for 20 – 30 minutes until the onion is grey and translucent (ideally you don’t want it to ever get brown).
  3. When the onion and garlic are cooked, add the bacon back into the pan and turn the heat back up to high.
  4. When everything is nice and hot, throw in your wine and allow it to bubble away until most of the liquid has evaporated.
  5. Finally, add the cream and any salt and pepper and allow to simmer over a low heat, stirring from time to time, while you cook the pasta in a large pan of salted boiling water.
  6. Drain the pasta, add it into the pan with the sauce and mix thoroughly before plating. Serve with plenty of fresh parmesan.
15 Responses to "orecchiette with onions, bacon and cream"
  1. This looks like such a comforting dish and how amazing to have made your own orechiette to go in it. Absolutely loved your thoughts on different meals – instantly took me back to so many moment, good, bad and otherwise :-)

  2. I was sold as soon as I saw onions, bacon and cream. We did Thanksgiving with my American friend last night and she made a dish called creamed onions which was onions, white wine, herbs and cream. It was amazing and I was thinking how great it would be with bacon and pasta.
    Perfect cold weather food.

  3. Beautiful! Lucky I had something quite similar for dinner tonight and still feeling quite full, otherwise I’d be having serious food envy. ;)

  4. Jenny @ BAKE says:

    This looks perfect and just the dish I could do with after this hellish day! I love how you’ve taken the memory of a brilliant meal and created something that is truly your own! you are one talented lady!

  5. This really does look perfect, and I’m so glad you were able to recreate it because I am definitely making this! How can anyone resist bacon, creamy goodness?!

  6. Stunning. This is the second drool-worthy orecchiette recipe I’ve seen recently and I think this recipe needs to happen in my kitchen ASAP.

  7. Joanne says:

    Food memories are the best kind, especially when you can recreate them at home. This cream sauce sounds utterly decadent, but in a nourishing kind of way.

  8. This looks absolutely amazing and comforting. I love the bacon and cream! Best part? Homemade FRESH orcheitte. What a gorgeous dish. Stunning photography too!

  9. Sasha says:

    How beautiful. It’s almost like carbonara, except no eggs.
    I, for one, am drawn to pasta dishes exactly like this one – creamy things with bacon, cheese and other sinful ingredients.

  10. I love the photo, the recipe and your description of it. Wonderful.
    Thanks, also, for the links to the SF restaurants!

  11. marla says:

    Such a beautiful comfort food kinda pasta!

  12. This sounds just so amazing, Kathryn. Sometimes it’s these simple meals that stand out in our memories. I have some wonderful, sporadic food memories that I’ve collected over the years, from the most unassuming and unexpected places. Thank you for sharing one of yours.

  13. I have a feeling this dish would register in my memory for years to come – cream, carbs bacon and more carbs? Yup, stuck in memory already.

  14. love all of the little stories in this post.
    and the pasta looks so wonderful, of course!

  15. I love food memories! Every childhood memory has food involved. Kind of weird / nice.

    This looks lovely. Such a pretty dish!

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