When I was invited a while back to participate in the Hidden Valley Ranchify Recipe Challenge – which involved “ranchifying a recipe” using Hidden Valley Ranch dressing, I knew exactly the combination of ingredients I wanted to use: Bacon, lettuce and tomatoes. But not in a sandwich.
Whilst I love the idea of BLT sandwiches sometimes they come with way too much mayonnaise. Generally when I make them myself, I either make my own mayonnaise and go easy on how much I use or else, when I am pressed for time, I use a little bit of ranch dressing on my bread – a little bit goes a long way which I like – no soggy bread! This dish takes all the flavours of the classic sandwich and delivers them under the guise of a spaghetti with a “Hidden” ingredient that even your friends with the keenest palates will not be able to guess. I mean really, who would think of putting salad dressing in a pasta dish?
Well I certainly put a lot of thought into this one and over my final week in Toronto, I made it FOUR times. On the day I left (or attempted to leave for the first time!) Neil said to me “How many more servings of that pasta dish are there?” – but acknowledging that I really got it right on the fourth go around!
The first time, I simply warmed the ranch dressing with the rest of the “sauce” ingredients. It was good. Just missing something. The ranch dressing kind of evaporated, so it didn’t look like there was any sauce at all, though you could definitely taste it.
The next time, I added some ricotta to thicken the sauce slightly. I mean I didn’t want a creamy sauce, just one that was slightly more discernible…
This was really good. So good that on this photo on Instagram, Aimée commented that she’d love to try it when she was in Toronto and we were supposed to be having dinner with Jan. So I invited them over (no pressure, just two of the most inspiring and talented cooks/ bakers that I know….).
We ate, we enjoyed. Neither of them guessed the “hidden” ingredient…
Since by this point I had eaten a lot of this pasta, I knew this one was good, but in the back of my mind, I had a niggling feeling that there was a texture “thing” I could possibly work on. I’d already divided the arugula, leaving some for the very end of the dish so that there was some not-so-wilted leaves in there. I’d cooked the tomatoes way less each time, preferring the less mushy version and it was good. But when both Aimée and Jan suggested breadcrumbs, I wondered why I had not thought of that – I mean, right there is the “sandwich” part of the dish inspired by the sandwich, right?
Next time, I used panko breadcrumbs lightly fried in some butter (right?). It was really, very good. Thanks ladies for your input!
- 4 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 12 rashers bacon, diced
- 200g dry spaghetti
- 1 ½ cups cherry tomato halves
- 2 cups baby arugula
- ⅓ cup smooth ricotta
- ⅓ cup Hidden Valley Original Ranch Dressing
- ½ cup arugula
- ¼ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
- Melt butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s bubbling, add the panko breadcrumbs and toast until golden. Set aside.
- Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat and when it’s hot, fry the diced bacon until crispy.
- Drain bacon on paper towels and pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat.
- Meanwhile, cook spaghetti according to directions on package (generally about 11 minutes). Drain and set aside, drizzling a bit of olive oil or leaving some of the pasta water in the pot to stop it from sticking until you are ready to use.
- Lower the heat on the bacon pan to medium and add the cherry tomatoes.
- Sauté the tomatoes for 2-3 minutes, then add the 2 cups of baby arugula.
- Lower the heat and cover the pan for a couple of minutes until the arugula is wilted.
- Add the bacon and stir to combine all ingredients.
- Mix the ricotta with the Hidden Valley Ranch dressing and add to the tomatoes, arugula and bacon. Stir to combine, making sure sauce is evenly distributed.
- Add the drained pasta to the sauce along with the breadcrumbs. Toss the pasta to make sure it’s thoroughly coated with the sauce.
- Add the remaining arugula and basil, making sure to distribute evenly throughout the pasta.
This will be a staple dish in my house from now on. So easy, so tasty. And I love the “unexpected” factor when you tell people what’s in it 🙂 Thanks Jan and Aimée and Neil for the useful input!
Disclosure: I was invited to take part in the Hidden Valley Ranch Ranchify Recipe Challenge. I received samples of ranch dressing and a grocery gift card to cover the cost of ingredients for the purpose of developing a recipe using the ranch dressing. I was not further compensated for writing this post, though there are prizes for winning recipes, as judged by Chef Ned Bell of the Four Seasons YEW Restaurant in Vancouver.
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