First at BAT

Growing up, sports was a big deal between my father and my brother. Football, yes, but especially baseball. Particularly Texas Rangers baseball. Because of this, a particular local restaurant (Bobby V’s Sports Gallery Cafe) was on regular rotation in our house. Per the website: “Bobby Valentine, baseball legend and former Texas Rangers manager, founded Bobby V’s in the 1980s.” As a little girl, sports didn’t really garner much interest for me. I was more of a bookworm. I know. Big surprise there, right? However, it far surpassed my dad’s other favorite, Pancho’s. Can I get an amen? I loved going out to eat as a kid, but I’ll never forget the incensed expression on his face the day my dad asked me if I wanted to go with him and my brother out to lunch at Pancho’s and I said, “No, thanks!” He definitely thought I was being sassy, but I just couldn’t (and still can’t) stand Pancho’s.

Typically when I go out to eat, I make it a mission to try something different than I did before if going to the same place. Chip & Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia Table in Waco is one that stands out immediately. This policy doesn’t apply to my childhood self. I pretty much only gravitated toward Chinese and Italian food as a kid. I was less than enamored with Tex-Mex or Burgers-and-Fries type foods. Tex-Mex restaurants generally produced innumerable quesadillas or dinners of chips & queso for me… and Bobby V’s always had me ordering their Bacon Avocado and Tomato pasta. (There’s that penchant for Italian-type food again…) A glance at the menu today shows many more enticing pasta dishes, but as a kid I don’t recall there being as many options for me. Out of all the options over the years, and out of the many visits, this one pasta was forever my go-to. Even going today, I imagine I would order this one again. Not just out of nostalgia, but because it was really that consistently good over the years. There are very few places now that I order the same thing over and over again, but this is definitely one of them.

There was an irresistible deal on pastas recently (prior to my push for #shelfcooking) and I stocked up! Pastas are such a good staple for your pantry owing to their long shelf life and ability to stretch any meal that much farther (especially if you’re practicing frugality). One day, I plan to write my own version of a “well-stocked pantry list,” but for now, I’ll just tell you to keep pastas on hand. Any shape will do. As long as you have pasta and butter, you have a meal in the making. I was able to dip into my pantry stash during The Great Snowpocalypse of Texas that hit February 2021. This introvert opened her home to church family on a whim and I was able to quickly throw together a yummy meal on the fly. Even with dipping into my stash, I have a robust supply of pastas and such; so the shelf-cooking lends itself to much practice on creative energy. Recently, this exercising creativity practice brought to mind my favorite pasta dish from Bobby V’s.

I knew the pasta dish itself was a simple one, but I didn’t know just how simple it was until I looked it up one day while out running errands. Do you ever find that inspiration strikes while you’re doing the most mundane tasks? I find that God gives me the best ideas for the church nursery while my mind is quiet and I’m just getting ready in the morning. The same thing happened to me with the idea of this pasta while I was out running errands one day. I suddenly, out of the blue, was reminded of this dish and after researching, lo and behold discovered I had nearly every single component to recreate this beloved dish already.

In addition to this, I was able to add my own spin to the dish. I was able to improve upon the original concept with the use of a roasted garlic compound butter (a recent gift from a friend in trade for some banana bread). The original dish is absolutely perfect just the way it is, don’t get me wrong. However, I couldn’t miss an opportunity to use elevated ingredients. The original description reads: Penne pasta tossed with lean bacon, fresh avocado, diced tomatoes, fresh basil and parmesan cheese. It seems fairly basic, but I assure you that it is quite lovely!

It seems the one shape of pasta I didn’t have was penne. Go figure. Truthfully, this dish isn’t intrinsically bound to one style of pasta… unless you want to really delve deep and argue that the penne most closely resembles a baseball bat. This is after all a Bacon, Avocado, and Tomato pasta. I really don’t think it’s that deep. The original description also didn’t indicate a certain sauce and to be fair, I don’t remember any sauce. I just remember tangy cheese, sweet pops of tomato, salty nuggets of bacon. and creamy avocado…. This ambiguity leaves room for interpretation. More wiggle room for me! Let’s start from the top; shall we?

1pkg (~12oz) applewood-smoked bacon
1 avocado, diced
8-10 cherry tomatoes, quartered (I used Sunset Sugar Bombs!)
1 lush bunch basil, cut in thin ribbons
2-4tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1pkg bowtie pasta
2tbsp roasted garlic compound butter (or regular salted butter OR rendered bacon fat from step 1)
Slices of rustic Italian bread or baguette

1) Preheat oven to 400°F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Line up slices of bacon on the parchment paper. The bacon can be touching, but not overlapping. (It’s ok if you need to do more than one batch.) Bake for 12-14min depending on how crispy you like your bacon. Once your bacon is cooked, remove it to a paper-towel lined plate and set aside to cool.
2) While your bacon is rendering, cook your pasta according to package directions, and prep the rest of your ingredients. Reserve 1/4c pasta water before you drain your pasta!
3) When your pasta is finished, drain (reserving 1/4c cooking liquid), and return to cooking pot. Drop your compound butter (or fat of choice) into the pasta and drizzle a little of the pasta water into the pot (add more if needed). Toss pasta in the butter to coat.
4) Crumble the cooled bacon into the pasta. Toss to combine. Sprinkle in your tomatoes. Toss to combine. Sprinkle in avocado chunks. Toss to combine.
5) At this point, you can toss in the basil and parm to coat the whole pot, but I generally choose to garnish each serving with the latter ingredients.
6) Serve with warmed bread smeared with softened salted butter! Enjoy!

The recreated dish was everything I imagined and then some! It far exceeded my expectations and memories! It was also way enhanced by the compound butter and sheer volume of bacon. I’m sure that the original incarnation didn’t contain near as much bacon as mine did, but lets’s be honest with ourselves. The bacon was so perfectly crispy and abundant, no one was complaining. The Sunset Sugar Bombs were such a great sweet complement to the salty bacon and Parmesan. The silky avocado offset the other textures and flavors of the dish well and the whole thing came together quite harmoniously.

With the entire world being closed last year, many people around the world were recreating their favorite restaurants in their own kitchens. What are some childhood restaurant faves that you’ve reimagined?

Currently Reading: Texas Highways Magazine, May 2020, Vol 67 Issue 5

Scripture of the Day: “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.” ~1 Timothy 4:1-5


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