When it comes to pasta it is easy to get into a rut, making the same sauces over and over. For most people that means either red, tomato sauce or a white "Alfredo" sauce. In Autumn I like to serve pasta with caramelized cabbage and bacon. This is a great late summer, early fall pasta dish. Slightly caramelizing the cabbage brings a wonderful depth of flavor to the dish, but it still is light enough to not slow you down when it is still warm outside. It’s not the quickest pasta to make, but neither will you have to spend lots of time in the kitchen preparing this.
Pasta with Caramelized Cabbage
2 cups coarse rye breadcrumbs (light rye works best)*
4 Tbl. butter
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
4 slices bacon, chopped (I prefer thick cut bacon)
1 small head cabbage, coarsely shredded
1 medium onion
8 Tbl. butter
1 pound long skinny pasta (spaghetti, angel hair, linguine, etc.)
In a large saute pan melt the first amount of butter. Add the garlic and saute 30 seconds. Add the breadcrumbs and toss making sure all the crumbs are well coated with butter. Continue to cook, stirring regularly until the breadcrumbs get crispy and have become lightly brown. Remove from saute pan and set aside.
Wipe out the saute pan then add the chopped bacon. Cook over medium high heat until crisp. Remove the bacon, leaving the bacon fat in the pan. Add the onions and saute for 3-4 minutes. Add the cabbage and season with salt and pepper. Allow to cook for 4-5 minutes before stirring, then stir a bit to redistribute the cabbage and allow to cook another 3-5 minutes. Continuing to cook until the cabbage is tender. The goal is to allow the cabbage to start to caramelize. Let it start to brown before stirring, but be careful not to let it burn. While the cabbage is cooking bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Once the cabbage is 3/4s of the way done go ahead and cook the pasta according the the directions. When the pasta is done strain the pasta reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta liquid. Toss drained pasta in with the cabbage, adding the remaining butter also. Toss to mix, adding the reserved pasta water, a tablespoon at a time, if the pasta seems a little dry. Season with salt and pepper. Divide between 4 plates. Sprinkle the bacon evenly of the plates of pasta then garnish with a very generous portion of the rye bread crumbs.
*Note: To make the rye bread crumbs place fresh rye bread, sliced, into a food processor and pulse until you have pieces just smaller than a pea. You will end up with a mix of fine breadcrumbs and the coarser ones. This is what you are looking for.