Asparagus is one of my favorite vegetables especially when incorporated into a fabulous dish. My kids dislike asparagus but love Creamy Pasta with Asparagus & Bacon – they say that bacon makes everything better!
I am guilty of buying asparagus, putting it away in the refrigerator drawer, and finding it when it has only a day or so left. Fresh green beans are also really nice in this dish. If you have family with selective palates, this is a wonderful way to get them to eat vegetables – the creamy and flavorful sauce complements the vegetables well.
I love to add extra garnish to complement the bacon and Parmesan. I grab some fresh herbs from my little herb garden, chop them, and sprinkle on top. Then I cut a lemon and squeeze a bit of juice over the pasta. The added color and freshness of the herbs mixed with the brightness of the lemon are lovely.
8 slices 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 lb. asparagus – trim the 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 Parmesan cheese – shredded or freshly grated
Cook the pasta about 3 minutes less than the lowest minutes given on the package – not yet al dente. Drain the pasta, rinse, and set aside.
In a 12-inch nonstick skillet or a cast iron skillet (my favorite), cook the bacon until crispy.
Transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. Pour the bacon grease into a bowl – do not discard because you will need some later.
Using the same pan from the bacon, heat to medium heat, add the mushrooms, and season lightly with salt and pepper.
Cook the mushrooms until browned and the liquid is mostly evaporated – 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to the same plate as bacon.
In a larger pot, add the broth, 2 cups of milk, the pasta, ½ tsp. salt and ¼ tsp. pepper.
Bring the mixture to a vigorous simmer and cook for about 8-9 minutes, stirring occasionally and moderating the heat so the mixture simmers but doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot.
Stir in the asparagus and cook for another 4 to 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 a bit of liquid left; that is how it should be as it will help make the creamy sauce in the next step.
In a blender, combine 1 cup of milk, cream cheese, and flour and blend until completely smooth.
Slowly add the mixture to the pot while stirring quickly to combine. Simmer for a couple of minutes until the sauce has thickened.
Remove the pot from the heat. Reserve a bit of bacon for a garnish and stir the rest of the bacon with the mushrooms into the sauce.
Stir in the Parmesan cheese.
Plate the pasta and garnish with bacon and more Parmesan cheese, if desired.
• Pasta: Farfalle pasta is our family favorite, so I always have it on hand. If you prefer another type of pasta, it will work well unless the pasta is really small. Penne pasta is an excellent choice.
• Sauce: This is a saucy pasta which is how we like our pasta dishes. If you want slightly less sauce, consider adding only 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 doesn’t work for your family, substituting fresh green beans works beautifully.
• Garnish: I recommend adding a sprinkle of bacon and Parmesan for the added flavor. I highly recommend sprinkling chopped fresh herbs and adding a squeeze of fresh lemon juice over the pasta – it makes the dish pop!