Pork, Bacon and Apple Pasta Bake combines ingredients you know and love in a way you’ve probably never had before. You may be thinking apple and pasta, WTF? But pork and apples is a flavor combo we’re all familiar with.
So what makes this pasta dish so unique? There is a lot that is special about this recipe, but the use of apple cider for the base of the pasta sauce is what makes it so cool! You might think that the apple cider would be too sweet, but, you will taste tons of apple flavor without being overwhelmed by sweetness.
I'm a big fan of using apples in savory recipes. My Sweet Potato, Apple and Kale Galette is another one of my favorites.
Bacon is key to this recipe. I added it after trying out the recipe for the first time. The sauce needed more smoky, meaty flavors to balance all the brightness from the apple, lemon and thyme. Just a little bit of bacon was all it needed!
The combination of salty and sweet flavors with earthy vegetables is an epic party in your mouth.
Pork, bacon and apples in a pasta bake…seriously??
The idea may seem completely wacky, but it’s based in the fundamental and classic flavor combination of pork and apples. I mean, who didn’t have pork chops and applesauce as a kid? There’s nothing wrong with roasted pork tenderloin with apples, but I wanted to take the classic flavor combo and apply it to totally new ingredients.
If you like salty and sweet flavors together, you are going to love this recipe.
Still not convinced, eh? If you skipped ahead to the recipe and thought, “Cream cheese and apple cider in a pasta bake?! What’s this chick smoking?” Don’t fret! I promise this recipe is tested and approved.
The apple cider is the backbone of the sauce for my Pork and Apple Pasta. Without it, the recipe would not have nearly as much apple flavor. To balance out the cider, I cut it with half chicken stock. This ensures that flavor of the sauce is savory.
And why does the recipe also include cream cheese you might ask. Well, for starters, I love the shit out of some cream cheese. Those of you who follow all my recipes are probably thinking this bitch needs cream cheese rehab, but it really is perfect in this sauce.
Chive and garlic cream cheese gives just the right amount of tang and creaminess to the sauce. You may have never had apple cider and cream cheese in the same bite, but believe me when I tell you, it’s heavenly!
It’s bacon and cream cheese together…what could possibly go wrong here?
Can you substitute apple juice for apple cider?
Disclaimer, I’ve never tried making this recipe with apple juice, but I think you could make this substitute work if necessary. Apple juice will definitely be sweeter, so it’s best to increase the chicken stock to 2 cups and reduce the apple juice to 1 cup instead of the equal parts cider and stock in the recipe.
Do I have to use honey crisp apples for Pork and Apple Pasta?
You can use whatever kind of apple you like in this recipe, but I recommend a variety with a balance of sweetness and acidity. I would not recommend granny smith apples for this recipe because they don’t have enough sweetness to balance all the salty and savory flavors from the pork and bacon.
Why egg noodles?
Egg noodles are one of my all-time favorites, so that’s main reason I use them in my Pork and Apples Pasta Bake. I also like their slightly sweet and rich flavor with the salty pork in this recipe. Last, they have a wide structure that holds as much of the creamy sauce as possible.
It's a one-pot meal (if you don’t count boiling the pasta)
I love this recipe because it’s a one-pot dish (if you ignore the need for a pot to boil pasta but come on…you don’t even really have to clean that pot). I built this recipe to be about layering flavors. Every ingredient is added in a certain order to ensure that each is cooked perfectly without requiring multiple pots and pans.
Can I make Pork, Bacon and Apple Pasta ahead of time?
Pork and Apples Pasta is an awesome make-ahead meal. The entire recipe takes about 45 minutes to prepare so it wouldn’t be crazy to make and eat it right away on a busy weeknight. If, on the other hand, you’re a weekend meal prepper, you can easily pour the prepared recipe into a casserole dish and reheat when you’re ready to have a pig and pasta party!
The prepared casserole will hold in the fridge for up to 3 days before baking and serving.
Pork and Apple Pasta Bake is a crowd-pleasing recipe. It’s also inexpensive to prepare and will give you plenty of leftovers. There are tons of reasons to love this recipe but none is more important than how tasty it is!
Try it out and you’ll see. Let me know what you think in the comments section.
This may seem like a one-trick pony, but I use mine ALL THE TIME. It makes breaking up ground meat in a saute pan so fast and easy!
Staub makes cookware of exceptional quality, and this size is perfect for one-pot meals like this recipe. There are tons of colors available too!
Pork, Bacon and Apple Pasta Bake
- 2 strips bacon
- 1 lb ground pork
- 1 onion
- 2 carrots
- 1 tsp fresh thyme
- 1.5 C non-alcoholic apple cider
- 4 oz garlic and chive cream cheese room temperature
- 1.5 C chicken stock
- 8 oz egg noodles
- 2 honey crisp apples
- 6 oz kale
- 1 lemon
- 1 Tb olive oil
- 1.5 tsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp dry mustard
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- ¾ C grated parmesan cheese
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season the water with a generous tablespoon of salt.
- While the water comes to a boil, dice the onion and peel and dice the carrots. Rinse the kale well and remove from the stem. Cut into large strips. The kale will wilt down quite a bit after being cooked so don't cut it too small. Cut the bacon strip in half vertically and then cut into ½-inch pieces.
- Once the salted water has come to a boil, add the egg noodles and cook until al dente based on package instructions. Drain the pasta once cooked and coat with a bit of olive oil to avoid sticking. Set aside.
- In a large dutch oven or heavy bottom pan, add 1 Tb of olive oil and the bacon pieces. Turn the heat on to medium-high and sauté the bacon, stirring occasionally, until well browned or for 5-7 minutes. Next, add the onion and carrot. Cook for another 5-7 minutes until the vegetables have softened and begun to brown on the edges.
- Add the ground pork next and break up the meat into bite size pieces. You can use a wooden spoon for the job or check out the awesome gadget I've linked to above. A ground meat chopper is so handy! Cook the pork for about 10 minutes until it is cooked through and no pink remains.
- While the pork is cooking, dice the apple into half-inch chunks. There is no need to peel the apple. The skin will soften while the sauce cooks. Next add the salt, pepper, dry mustard, paprika, and garlic powder. Mix well to combine. Add the apple and cook for about 3 more minutes or until the apple barely start to soften.
- Last, add the chopped kale and cook for another 2-3 minutes until the kale is wilted and well combined.
- To begin making the sauce, add the apple cider and chicken stock to the pan. Stir well so that you lift all the yummy pan drippings from the bottom of the pan. Cut the cream cheese into chunks to help it break down faster in the sauce. Add to the pan and stir occasionally until well combined. Reduce the heat to medium and let the sauce low boil for about 12 minutes or until it has reduced by about half.
- Last, add the juice of 1 lemon, thyme, and ½ C grated parmesan to the sauce. Reserve the remaining ¼ parmesan for garnish. Stir to combine and continue to cook until the cheese is melted. Add the cooked pasta and mix well to combine.
- At this point, the pasta is ready to serve or you can make the dish ahead. If eating right away, garnish with the remaining ¼ C grated parmesan and enjoy!
- If you're making ahead, pour the pasta mixture into a lightly greased 9" x 13" casserole dish. Top with the grated parmesan and cover with foil. The dish will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days before baking. When ready to eat, place the covered dish into a preheated oven at 350 degrees and cook for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 15 or until golden and bubbly.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, but reduce the apple juice to 1 cup and increase the chicken stock to 2 cups.
Any apple with a good balance of sweet and acidity will work.
Yes. The prepared casserole will hold in the fridge for up to 3 days before baking and serving.