Asparagus is one of my favorite vegetables especially when incorporated into a fabulous dish. My kids don’t like asparagus but they love creamy pasta with asparagus and bacon: they say bacon makes everything taste better!
I’m guilty of buying asparagus, stashing it in the refrigerator drawer, and finding it when it only had a day or two left. Fresh green beans are also very good in this dish. If you have a family with selective palates, this is a wonderful way to get them to eat their veggies—the creamy, flavorful sauce complements the veggies well.
I love adding an extra side to complement the bacon and parmesan. I take some fresh herbs from my little garden, chop them and sprinkle them on top. Then I cut a lemon and squeeze some juice onto the pasta. The added color and freshness of the herbs mixed with the brightness of the lemon is lovely.
8 slices of bacon – chopped
8 oz. Baby-Bella mushrooms – sliced
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 cups milk, divided (2 cups and 1 cup)
12 oz. Farfalle pasta (Bowtie pasta)
1 pound asparagus: Trim tough ends and cut into 1-inch pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
4 oz. cream cheese – softened
2 tbsp. All purpose flour
½ cup grated or fresh parmesan
Cook the pasta about 3 minutes less than the lowest minutes indicated on the package – not yet al dente. Drain the pasta, rinse it and set it aside.
In a 12-inch nonstick skillet or cast iron skillet (my favorite), cook the bacon until crisp.
Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels. Pour the bacon grease into a bowl – don’t discard it as you will need some later.
Using the same pan as the bacon, heat over medium heat, add the mushrooms and season lightly with salt and pepper.
Cook the mushrooms until golden brown and the liquid has mostly evaporated – 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to the same plate as the bacon.
In a larger pot, add broth, 2 cups milk, pasta, ½ tsp. salt and ¼ tsp. pepper.
Bring the mixture to a vigorous boil and cook for about 8-9 minutes, stirring occasionally and moderating the heat so that the mixture simmers but does not stick to the bottom of the pan.
Stir in the asparagus and cook for a further 4-5 minutes, until the asparagus is tender and the pasta is al dente but still slightly firm (it will continue to cook). There will be some liquid left; this is how it should be because it will help prepare the creamy sauce in the next step.
In a blender, combine 1 cup milk, cream cheese, and flour and blend until smooth.
Slowly add the mixture to the pot, stirring quickly to combine. Simmer for a couple of minutes until the sauce has thickened.
Remove the pot from the heat. Set aside some bacon for garnish and mix the rest of the bacon with the mushrooms into the sauce.
Stir in the parmesan.
Plate the pasta and garnish with bacon and more parmesan, if desired.
• Pasta : Farfalle are a favorite in our family, so I always have them on hand. If you prefer another type of pasta, this will work well unless the pasta is really small. Pennettes are a great choice.
• Sauce : This is a saucy pasta which is how we like our pasta dishes. If you want a little less sauce, consider adding just 3 ½ cups of broth and adding more at the end if needed. Keep in mind that the sauce will thicken more as the pasta rests.
• Asparagus : If asparagus isn’t working for your family, substituting fresh green beans works beautifully.
• Garnish : I recommend adding a sprinkling of bacon and parmesan for further flavour. I highly recommend sprinkling chopped fresh herbs and adding a squeeze of fresh lemon juice over the pasta – it makes the dish pop!