This Penne al Baffo recipe has penne pasta that's coated in a concentrated tomato and cream sauce with garlic, shallot, thin-sliced pancetta or ham, and topped with parsley. It is an extra decadent dish everyone will love!
Why You'll Love This Dish
"Baffo" means "mustache" or "whiskers" in Italian. I have been told the name for this recipe comes from the phrase, "da leccarsi i baffi" or "so good you'll lick your whiskers," which I find pretty unbearably cute.
A direct quote from my boyfriend (who has a mustache): "This is my favorite pasta you've ever made."
This is a big deal. I have made him countless marinaras, pestos, puttanesca, cream sauces, manicotti from scratch. But this recipe is the winner.
So, why will you love this dish? It's one of those quick and easy pasta dishes you'll want to add to your regular rotation. It's a great recipe for a busy weeknight, but it's impressive enough for a dinner with guests!
You will love the rich, creamy tomato sauce tempered by the bright, concentrated tomato paste, lightly sweet shallots, salty pancetta, and savory garlic. The cream and tomato combine to create a super creamy and comforting, balanced flavor.
Parsley adds just a bit of freshness and earthiness to this wonderfully flavorful dish.
I recommend using a high-quality tomato paste and full-fat heavy cream for this dish. It's not the time to cut corners - commit to the decadence! I use double-concentrated tomato paste and regular heavy cream.
To make this dish vegetarian, just omit the pancetta, or try this tasty sun dried tomato pasta!
What You'll Need
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- Pancetta I like to use thin-sliced pancetta. If you cannot find pancetta, try prosciutto, ham, or even bacon. If you'd like a different texture to your pasta, you can try cubed pancetta or ham instead.
- Tomato Paste A good-quality, double-concentrated tomato paste is excellent here. I've made this with regular, generic brand tomato paste too, though, and it's still amazing.
- Heavy Cream I used full-fat cream in this recipe, but you are welcome to use half and half if it's what you have on hand.
- Penne You could also use a mostaccioli, rigatoni, or other short tube pasta.
- Shallot This would work with a sweet onion or yellow onion as well. If using onion, use a small onion or half of a larger onion.
- Fresh Garlic
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil This is my favorite brand.
- Kosher Salt I always recommend Diamond Crystal kosher salt when cooking. The shape of the salt is more of a flake than a cube. It is easier to coat food evenly, harder to oversalt, and it has an overall preferable flavor.
- Fresh Parsley If you aren't a fan, try some fresh basil instead.
How to Make Penne al Baffo
Step One Finely chop the garlic and shallot. If it is not already, slice your pancetta into bite-sized pieces.
Step Two Add olive oil, garlic, and shallot to a frying pan over medium-low to medium heat. Sweat the shallot gently in olive oil until it is transparent.
Step Three Add the pancetta and cook for a few more minutes.
Step Four Add the tomato paste and cook for a few more minutes.
Step Five Add the cream and switch the heat to medium-low or low. Stir often.
Step Six In the meantime, set a salted pot of water to boil. Cook the penne to al dente.
Step Seven Add the pasta to the sauce and stir to combine. Add a small amount of pasta water if the sauce has gotten too thick. Taste for seasoning, add the chopped parsley, and serve!
Penne al Baffo is a pasta dish with tomato and cream sauce and a pork product - often ham. Here we have used pancetta as we found the end product more nuanced, richer, and more savory.
I do not recommend making this in advance. If you have leftovers, try storing the pasta and sauce separately to maintain the pasta's texture and reheat them separately. See the "How to Store" section for more details.
I do not recommend freezing this dish. The texture of the pasta and the sauce will both be impacted negatively by freezing. Try to eat the whole thing right after making it!
Of course. Try any short tube-shaped pasta here, like rigatoni, ziti, or mostaccioli.
Absolutely! Just omit the pancetta and use a pinch of salt in its place.
Different Fresh Herb Try some fresh basil instead of parsley!
Different Meat If you can't find pancetta, try a bit of prosciutto, cooked ham, or even bacon. This would be a fantastic recipe for leftover holiday ham.
Cheese Grate a bit of parmesan, pecorino, or mozzarella at the end for an even more decadent, cheesy dinner. Don't go too crazy, though - the dish is already on the salty side.
More Tomato For a dish with more tomato taste and a looser sauce, try adding some tomato puree or tomato passata.
How to Store
I recommend eating this dish right after it is cooked. I do not like pasta reheated as the texture becomes mushy or dry. If you plan to make this dish in advance, store the pasta and sauce separately.
Fridge Cooked pasta should last for 5 days. The sauce should last for 5 to 7 days in the fridge.
Reheating You can reheat the sauce on the stove and the pasta in the microwave with a damp paper towel over the top for 1 minute or less.
Freezer I do not recommend freezing this sauce. It will separate, change textures, and just be generally sad.
Note The ingredients for this dish actually last longer in the fridge before they are cooked/prepared.
- Cook the pasta for one minute less than the lower time suggested on the box. This will result in al dente pasta that won't become overcooked when it is mixed into the sauce. If you find the pasta is slightly less than al dente, just continue cooking for another minute or so.
- Watch your temperature closely as you are making the sauce. You want your shallots and garlic to sweat, not brown, or your resulting sauce will become bitter.
- Taste! When your sauce has finished cooking, be sure to taste it before serving. It seems like such a simple tip, but many people forget to do this. In this step, you'll be able to see if you need a pinch more salt before it hits the table.
How to Serve
This pasta is fantastic on its own. If you'd like to add a vegetable to your meal, here are some fantastic options:
Greens Some simply sautéed greens would be a fantastic side.
Roasted Vegetables Try this roasted tenderstem broccoli!
Added Protein You could also add a protein like a piece of grilled chicken, shrimp, or some white beans to add more body to the meal.
More Delicious Pasta Dishes
Or try these other delicious pasta recipes!
Penne al Baffo
- 8 ounces penne
- 1 shallot finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic chopped
- 3 ounces thin-sliced pancetta sliced in half lengthwise, then thin sliced into bite-sized pieces
- ¼ cup + 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- ⅔ cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2-4 tablespoons parsley
- 1 pinch kosher salt large, for salting the pasta water
- Place a large pot of water on the stove to boil. Salt the water.
- Place a frying pan on medium-low to medium heat. Add the olive oil, shallot and garlic. Cook until softened and shallots are translucent, stirring often, about 5 minutes. If garlic starts to color, turn down the heat.
- Add pancetta and cook until some of the fat renders, 3-4 minutes.
- Add tomato paste and cook for 3-4 minutes.
- When the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook until just al dente (usually 1 minute less than the lower time suggested in the box directions). Reserve some pasta water.
- Add the cream. Once the cream comes to a simmer, turn heat to medium-low or low and cook for 5-10 minutes while the pasta cooks, stirring often to ensure the sauce does not get too thick. You want the sauce to coat the back of a spoon.
- Add the al dente pasta to the sauce and toss to combine. If the sauce has gotten a bit too thick, add a scoop of the pasta water and stir until you reach the desired consistency.
- Taste for seasoning. If needed, add a bit of salt.
- Ladle the pasta into bowls, top with parsley and serve immediately.
- This recipe makes 4 small portions or 2 large portions. Calories listed are for 4 portions.
- If you cannot find pancetta, feel free to use prosciutto, ham, or even bacon.
- To make this dish vegetarian, just omit the pancetta.
- Instead of shallot, you can use sweet or yellow onion. Use half of a large onion or a whole small onion.
- High-quality double concentrated tomato paste is excellent here, but regular, generic brand tomato paste is also good.
- I recommend serving this dish right after it is prepared, but if needed you can refrigerate the pasta and sauce separately and combine once reheated. I do not recommend freezing this dish.