Daddy’s pasta is a variation on pasta all’arrabbiata, a low-touch, slick sauce of tomato, red pepper flakes, and cheese. Tad started out shadowing the classic, but soon broke out on his own, adding chopped bacon and a bit more tomato. Rather than a long noodle, which was difficult for our kids to twirl and swallow, he used penne rigate, then orecchiette. His pasta shape du jour is now rotelle, because the tomatoes and bacon get trapped in its spokes. He tinkered and honed, making mental notes of our dinner table reviews and translating them into the next version: 1. Cook down the sauce longer so it really clings to the noodles. 2. Let the pasta sit for a few minutes before serving, which helps the whole shebang bond. —Amanda Hesser
Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil.
Meanwhile, spread the bacon in a large sauté pan over medium heat; brown the bacon and render the fat. Scoop out the bacon and set aside on paper towels. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the pan, then add 1/4 cup olive oil to the pan and warm over medium heat.
Drop in the tomato paste and add the red pepper flakes; turn the heat to low and stir just until fragrant, about 4 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and turn off the heat.
Drop the pasta into the boiling water and cook until truly al dente—you’ll be cooking it a bit more with the sauce. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta water.
Add the pasta, bacon, and the reserved pasta water to the tomato sauce, then stir and toss over medium heat until the pasta is well coated. Season with salt if necessary, then add the 3 tablespoon olive oil, tossing well. Serve immediately, with a sprinkling of Parmesan on top of each bowlful.
Before starting Food52 with Merrill, I was a food writer and editor at the New York Times. I've written several books, including "Cooking for Mr. Latte" and "The Essential New York Times Cookbook." I played myself in "Julie & Julia" -- hope you didn't blink, or you may have missed the scene! I live in Brooklyn with my husband, Tad, and twins, Walker and Addison.