Because bacon usually contains nitrites and other artificial preservatives, we don’t eat it (an exception is the nitrite-free bacon available at Whole Foods). A good substitute is prosciutto, which is cured with salt. In this recipe, thin slices of prosciutto are sautéed until crisp, torn into strips and used to garnish a delicious pasta dish. This is a good weeknight meal for both meat eaters and vegetarians, as the latter can simply omit the garnish.

Saute thin slices of prosciutto until crisp, then tear into strips

Stir spinach or arugula into sauce until it just wilts

Add cooked pasta to the sauce and heat through before serving

To avoid additives and preservatives in this recipe, make sure the prosciutto ingredients are simply pork and salt, that the tomatoes are all-natural and the parmesan does not contain colour.


3 cups (750 mL) penne pasta (8 ounces/225 g)

2 thin slices prosciutto

1 tablespoon (15 mL) olive oil

1 onion, coarsely chopped

1 sweet yellow or red pepper, coarsely chopped

8 ounces (225 g) white button or brown cremini mushrooms (or mixture of both), sliced

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 teaspoon (5 mL) dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) hot pepper flakes, or to taste

One 19-ounce (540-mL) can seasoned chunky tomatoes (for pasta)

3 cups (750 mL) fresh baby spinach, or baby arugula

1/4 cup (50 mL) freshly grated Parmesan cheese


Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. When boiling, cook pasta 8 to 10 minutes, or until tender but firm.

Meanwhile, heat Dutch oven or large deep saute pan over medium-high heat until hot. Cook prosciutto in a single layer until crisp, about 30 seconds per side. Remove to paper towel and pat off excess fat. Let cool; cut into thin strips.

Add oil to same pan. Add onion, sweet pepper and mushrooms; cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until onions and pepper soften, about 3 minutes. Add garlic, oregano and pepper flakes; cook about 15 seconds or until fragrant. Add tomatoes and bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer briskly 3 minutes. Stir in spinach or arugula until wilted, about 30 seconds.

Drain pasta and toss with sauce. To serve, sprinkle with prosciutto strips and cheese. Serves 4.

From Foodland Ontario, published in the February 8, 2006 issue of the Ottawa Citizen