Creamy, rich, and indulgent, this pancetta pink sauce is quick, and easy yet delivers on bold flavor. With thick pieces of rendered salty and savory pancetta, garlic, shallots, tomatoes and heavy cream this dish might just become your new go-to pasta sauce.
WHAT IS A PINK SAUCE?
Also referred to as a blush sauce, or rose sauce, a pink sauce is named after its color. Although…. it’s not pink, a pink sauce can vary from a dark orange to a light blush. It is simply a tomato sauce with added heavy cream, béchamel, or alfredo giving it its lighter color. It’s a little tangy from the tomatoes but super rich and creamy, and best part not labor intensive If you have ever had penne a la vodka then you have had a pink sauce. Consider this a a la no vodka or vodka-less sauce. If you are looking for a vodka sauce and stumbled upon this post check out my Spicy Rigatoni (aka Carbone dupe) recipe.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED FOR PANCETTA PINK SAUCE
Pasta– Players choice. This sauce is on the thick side, although can easily be thinned out with additional pasta water. A heartier shape with a hole such as rigatoni or pepe rigate are great shapes to use. Make sure to reserve some pasta water at the end.
Pancetta– I recommend pancetta over bacon. While bacon and pancetta are very similar, bacon is smoked while pancetta is not. Also, we are looking for small cubes to give this sauce a meatier texture not flat pieces. Pre-cubed pancetta can be found with the fresh cheeses and meats at most supermarkets.
Garlic– Fresh only!
Shallot– Sweeter and milder than an onion.
Tomato Paste – The secret to unlocking the most out of your tomato paste is to toast it. It is an added step that takes about 5-7 minutes but it is worth it. Trust me.
Crushed Tomatoes – Get really good crushed tomatoes to make this dish even better.
Parmesan– Freshly grated.
Heavy Cream– Half and half is a good substitute if you don’t have heavy cream.
HOW TO MAKE PANCETTA PINK SAUCE
This sauce is ridiculously easy to put together, however below are step by step instructions that go a little bit beyond the recipe card provided.
Render the Pancetta – Cook the pancetta in a pot over low-medium heat, stirring every minute or so to allow for even cooking. This will take approximately 6-8 minutes. Don’t be alarmed if it gets a little smoky, just make sure you are cooking it on low heat. To reduce the smoke, lower the temp or/and add a drizzle of olive oil to the pan before searing. Completely optional, but I find that it helps. Once rendered and crispy remove half the pancetta and put on the side for later.
Add the Aromatics – Lower the heat further and add the garlic and shallot. Cook until soft and fragrant, you don’t want them to brown, so if they start to you are cooking it on too high of a heat.
Toast the Tomato Paste – Add the tomato paste and cook it until it deepens in color. This will take approximately 7-10 minutes. Trust me it is worth the additional time.
Add Tomatoes + Simmer – I like to use crushed tomatoes vs tomato sauce for this recipe. It gives it a chunkier texture. Tip of advice? Choose really good crushed tomatoes. They should taste as if you crushed the tomatoes with no weird metallic after taste. You should want to take another spoonful.
Turn off + Add Finishers– I like to add the heavy cream and Parmesan cheese to the sauce after I remove it from the heat. Both of them don’t need cook time, and the parm will melt without direct heat. When you are ready to add pasta throw in a few tbsp of pasta water to thin it out (with flavor) and drop your pasta in. Toss and serve topped with the reserved pancetta.
Not in the mood for pasta? This cause can also be used with pillow, chewy gnocchi.
Looking to reheat? If you haven’t dropped in the pasta, reheat on the stove. If you have added pasta, this is one of the few times I am going to say it actually tastes even better at room temperature. Yet if you prefer hot pasta pop it in the microwave, just careful not to nuk it too much.
Cook pasta as per instructions in salty water. Reserve 1/4 cup of pasta water, drain and place on the side.
Cook the pancetta in a pot over low-medium heat, stirring every minute or so to allow for even cooking. Cook until brown and crispy, approx 6-8 minutes. Remove half the pancetta and place on the side for later.
Lower the heat and add garlic, shallot, optional chili flakes and approx 1/4 tsp of salt. Cook until soft and fragrant, but not brown 3-5 minutes.
Add the tomato paste and cook it until it deepens in color. This will take approximately 7-10 minutes.
Add the crushed tomatoes, mix to combine and cover. Simmer on low heat for 10-15 minutes. Mixing midway through.
Remove from the heat add the Parmesan and heavy cream. Mix to combine, salt if needed. When ready to add pasta add a few tbsp of pasta water first to loosen up the sauce. Add the pasta and top with a sprinkle of the reserved pancetta.