Pasta is not something you would typically think of when you think Southern food. It belongs to the realm of Italian Restaurants along with antipasta and broccoli rabe. But this pasta dish is inspired by my first visit to the "new southern" restaurant Magnolia's in Charleston SC. It was in 1987 that I was in college and my parents had moved back to Charleston from the Washington DC. area. Leaving my brother and me to drive down during the first break in the school year at Thanksgiving. It was exciting returning to Charleston. I had grown up away from the city and was now returning with adult eyes to see the city I only remembered from being a boy.
So much had changed about Charleston. And much had stayed the same. ( It is Charleston South Carolina after all. One of my favorite stories about flying to Charleston involves a flight attendant, who made the announcement as we landed " Ladies and Gentlemen, Welcome to Charleston SC. Please set your clocks back 200 years!" You get the idea! )
Well it was a few years before that Hugo, a storm that in it's wake brought as much change to the city, with it's influx of repair money and northern workers, as the Civil War had, occurred. But even then Charleston was changing. New businesses and international investment and corporate development had brought new customers to downtown's businesses. And many locals were reclaiming old buildings and bringing to life new businesses and living environments.
The Charleston restaurant scene was also undergoing a transformation. Gone were the days of Henry's and Perdita's and The Long Room ( Where George Washington had dined) . And in were fancy new places like Carolina's. These were restaurants celebrating the "new southern" cuisine which was first making it's appearance at that time. Southern Chefs bringing new life to old dishes and traditional low country foods. Chefs across the south were rediscovering local and sustainable foods like never before. Magnolia's was the first of several restaurants brought to life by a partnership guided by Tom Purcell. A car dealer, who got out of cars and into food.
It was on that visit during college that my father took us all out to dinner at Carolina's where I first encountered the food of the "new south". Then later after college I moved back to Charleston and in 1990 I went to Magnolia's right after they opened, for the first time. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Gourmet Shrimp and Grits and outrageous house made potato chips with melty Clemson Blue Cheese. Along with this very southern menu was this pasta dish. Of course it caught my eye seeing that it had bacon and blue cheese in it. It was also billed as a "small plate" so I ordered it as my appetizer. It arrived at the table warm and creamy garnished only with parsley and some blue cheese crumbles. It proved to be delicious! It was like a blue cheese carbonara. The sweetness of the sun dried tomatoes offset the sharp richness of the cream sauce. In short it was awesome. I immediately recreated the dish at home for a gathering
and was really pleased with the results. I served it for years when I lived in Charleston. But over time and with all the new things I learned since moving to NYC, I forgot about this dish. I was reminded only recently by a notation I saw about Magnolia's in my notes.
I recently visited the web page for Magnolia's and found that as I suspected the menu had changed over time and no longer included this dish. Even so I wanted to recreate it and add it back into my repertoire. So I made it last night. I think it may be the best pasta I have ever made. As you know I don't claim to be the best pasta maker in the world. But this is really good. I hope you try it out! It may not be exactly the Magnolia's recipe but I think it's close, so enjoy Ya'll.
Bow Tie Pasta with bacon, Sundried Tomatoes and Blue Cheese in a Cracked Pepper Cream Sauce
( ala Magnolia's Restaurant Charleston, South Carolina. )
10 oz of bow tie pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup finely minced onion
1 teaspoon mince garlic
1/2 cup bacon ( I believe Magnolia's used Applewood Smoked Bacon, I used Trader Joe's Brand Applewood bacon)
1/3 cup sundried tomatoes
1 3/4 cup heavy cream
3 ounces or Blue Cheese ( I used Maytag, which is close to Clemson Blue Cheese)
1 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
4 to 5 tablespoons chopped parsley
Boil the pasta in heavily salted water for 80% of the cooking time on the package
( pasta will finish cooking in the sauce, package said 10 mins I boiled mine for 8 mins)
Drain into the sink and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking, then place into the fridge to cool for 20 mins. ( when you bring it out rinse again with tap water to release the noodles from each other as they will likely have clumped)
In a large sauce pan add oil and cook the onions till soft but not brown. then add the bacon and cook, add sundried tomatoes and the 2 ounces of the blue cheese the cream and the black pepper as well as 3 tablespoons of the parsley.
Allow sauce to cook and reduce slightly until it has thickened up.
Add noodles and toss with the sauce until it's coated and heated.
Place into 4 bowls for a main course or 6 for a starter.
Garnish with blue cheese crumbles and sprinkle with parsley.