It's Monday. Invite someone over for dinner tonight.

Why postpone joy? Tagliatelle with Bacon and Gruyère is an easy 20-minute pasta dish you can make tonight for friends.

My friends would be perfectly happy if you invited them over for a weeknight dinner featuring this. Wouldn't yours?

My friends would be perfectly happy if you invited them over for a weeknight dinner featuring this. Wouldn’t yours?

It seems that my generation (or at least the crowd I run with!) somehow feels that if you have friends over for dinner, it must be something akin to a dinner party. It has to be Saturday night, and you have to serve a signature dish–if not something you’ve slaved all day over, at least something you’ve thought a lot about.

And yet, I wasn’t raised this way. Growing up, my mother was always inviting people to come (or simply stay) for dinner. It was never a big deal. “All I have to do is peel another potato,” she’d say.

Just another night around the table at the Moranville house, back in the day. Random extras included a school chum, an aunt, and an uncle.

Just another night around the table at the Moranville house, back in the day. Random guests include a school chum, an aunt, and an uncle.

Why can’t we be just as casual? Just as spontaneous?

Not since graduate school have I been to a friend’s house for a family meal where we simply ate what the cook would serve if he/she wasn’t having company that night. Pot roasts, simple soups and stews, a quick pasta dish, an easygoing skillet chicken dish. Pork chops. Meat loaf. Pot roast. Chili, for heaven’s sake.

It’s not that I don’t love an all-out dinner party—both as a guest and a hostess. Trouble is, they can take so much out of the host that they end up being few and far between.

Meanwhile, we’re missing those other opportunities to dine with friends and extended family  in our homes. And that just doesn’t make sense. Time’s slipping by, people. There’s joy to be had. Tonight.

And so: Here’s a really luscious recipe you can make on a weeknight—it takes about 20 minutes. I’m posting it here with the hopes that it inspires you (and me!) to get out the phone and invite someone over. Tonight. Are you game?


Pâtes aux Lardons // French Pasta with Bacon and Gruyere
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 servings
Pâtes aux lardons—creamy pasta studded with thick, luscious cubes of French bacon—is a popular any-night dish in France. Here, I’ve substituted American thick-cut bacon for the harder-to-find Frenchstyle lardons. If you wish to make lardons, you’ll need to cube your own from slab (or unsliced) bacon, which is sometimes available in the meat case at your supermarket, though you may have to order it in advance. Sliced bacon works just fine for a quick Tuesday-night dinner.
  • 6 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups (2 percent) or whole milk, plus more if needed
  • 1¾-inch-thick slice of a medium-size onion
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 cup shredded Gruyère, Emmental, or Comté cheese (4 ounces)
  • ¼ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese or another hard-aged cheese
  • (1 ounce)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 8 ounces dried tagliatelle or fettucine
  • ¼ cup snipped fresh parsley and/or chives
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta.
  2. In a large saucepan, cook the bacon over medium heat until firm through but not hard. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. Drain the fat from the pan.
  3. Melt the butter in the pan; whisk in the flour to make a smooth paste; cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Do not allow the flour mixture to brown. Slowly add the milk, whisking until smooth. Add the onion and garlic and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened and bubbly, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the onion and garlic from the sauce and discard. Add the cheeses to the sauce and whisk until melted and smooth. If the sauce seems too thick, stir in up to ½ cup more milk to reach the desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the bacon.
  4. While preparing the sauce, cook the pasta according to the package directions; drain and return to the pot.
  5. Toss the pasta with the sauce. Divide among four wide, shallow bowls, sprinkle with parsley and serve. Makes 4 servings.

Make it a menu:

• Appetizer: Start with a few of my Happy-Hour Crackers. So easy.

My Happy Hour Crackers, made with Trader Joe's Savory Thins.

Top your favorite crackers with a little soft or semisoft cheese (Cheddar, Comté, Brie, Camembert, Taleggio, etc.); run under the broiler just until the cheese oozes a bit, then top with chopped olives and a few herbs or some Piment d’Espelette (or paprika).

• Side: Serve with green beans or a green salad tossed with my French vinaigrette.

French Vinaigrette (left).

French Vinaigrette (left).

• For dessert? Do what a French woman would do. Buy something from a lovely local baker. Or, keep a good Trader Joe’s Pear Tart on hand in the freezer. Seriously. If a homemade tarts is (hopefully) a 10, this is easily an 8.5. I love this thing.

And to drink?

• My Favorite Value Wines (10 easy-to-find wines under $15).


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1 comment to It’s Monday. Invite someone over for dinner tonight.

  • Monica Jertson Cateron

    Years ago I had friends and we would do that- get together for dinner just any old night. Not sure why that all went away…… maybe too busy with kids and life and all that nonsense….. I miss those days !!

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