Food & Drink

Frances Mayes’s BLT Spaghetti

The Southern literary icon shares a delightfully simple yet flavorful recipe from her new cookbook

Photo: Steven Rothfeld

Through memoirs like the bestselling Under the Tuscan Sun, fictional novels, and travel stories, Frances Mayes has used vivid narration to bridge the distance between the South and Italy for decades. Her newest publication, Pasta Veloce, celebrates Italy’s favorite fare with the help of Susan Wyler, cookbook author, food editor, and Mayes’s longtime friend and partner in the kitchen. 

“Susan and I have cooked together in Mexico, Tuscany, Rome, Puglia, and Sicily, as well as in the United States. We stayed in touch through circuitous years and miraculously found ourselves, decades later, neighbors in a small North Carolina town,” Mayes writes. This recipe uses tried-and-true elements of both Southern and Italian cuisines—fat, salt, and acid, with fresh greens and a touch of sweetness—to create a riveting dish. “Just like the eponymous sandwich that inspired Susan to make this pasta, the key to success is stellar ingredients: deeply flavored hickory-smoked bacon, the bite of arugula, and juicy tomatoes.”

See two other recipes, exclusively shared with G&G, from Mayes’s new cookbook: Arugula and Toasted Pine Nut Pesto and Farfalle with Roasted Asparagus, Lemon Cream, and Chives. For more from the queen of wanderlust, read her love letter to the magnolia and G&G’s recent interview with her about her book A Place in the World, in which she invites you into her Southern and Italian estates. And of course, order her new cookbook, Pasta Veloce, here.

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  • Frances Mayes’s BLT Spaghetti (Yield: 6–8 servings)

    • 12 oz. spaghetti

    • 10 oz. bacon, cut crosswise into ½-inch strips

    • 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

    • 1 onion, thinly sliced

    • ½ tsp. coarse salt

    • ½ tsp. sugar

    • Generous grind of black pepper

    • 1–1¼ lb. tomatoes, cut into to 1-inch chunks

    • 3 cups lightly packed arugula

    • Finely shredded Asiago cheese


  1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the spaghetti until al dente, 9 to 10 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water before draining.

  2. Meanwhile, in a large, deep skillet, cook the bacon in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat, stirring to separate the pieces, until the fat renders and the bacon is lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel.

  3. Drain off all but about 1 tablespoon of fat from the pan. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the onion. Season with the salt, sugar, and pepper. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until the onion is golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in ½ cup of the reserved pasta water.

  4. Toss the cooked spaghetti with the liquid and onion in the pan to coat. Add the tomatoes, arugula, and bacon, and toss to mix evenly, including the remaining pasta water, if needed, to moisten. Serve with a sprinkling of Asiago cheese.

Reprinted from the new book Pasta Veloce: Irresistibly Fast Recipes from Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes and Susan Wyler. Copyright © 2023 by Frances Mayes and Susan Wyler. Photographs © 2023 by Steven Rothfield. Published by Abrams.