Sometimes when thrown together dinners result in happy successes, I squeal. Loudly. And kind of jump around in my chair waving a somewhat dangerous fork in the air. It’s been known to scare the children. You’d think they’d be prepared, but since it isn’t exactly an every day occurrence (I’ve had a ton of dinner failures lately, sob, which means no happy squealing, no squealing at all), they are often caught unprepared and look at me like I’m half-crazy after launching out of their seats in frightened awareness and often dropping a utensil or three. Poor kids. The things they have to put up with.
Such was the case with this creamy one pot wonder. Spring means asparagus season which means I’m the luckiest girl in the world since I love asparagus more than the average human being. I had a bag languishing in my fridge needing to be used, and since we had already devoured roasted asparagus three nights in a row, I repurposed it into this delicious, quick pasta dish. Although I love the green veggie and bacon and creamy pasta, I didn’t have high hopes for the dish in general because I literally was throwing it together without a thought for quantity or control in an attempt to get dinner on the table for two hungry boys headed off to wrestling practice.
And. It turned out amazing. Enough so (and because I didn’t write anything down the 1st time), after an appropriate squealing session, I made it again twice more to get the proportions and timing and ingredients just right, since I have a feeling it wouldn’t be very popular to publish a recipe on here that said, in effect, throw a bunch of stuff in a skillet, turn the heat to medium, say a prayer and hope for the best. Which is basically what happened the first go-round.
This long story is to let you know that this one pot (or one skillet) creamy asparagus and bacon pasta is the dinner dreams are made of. It’s fast. It’s crazy yummy. And it’s creamy without being too decadent for a Tuesday night dinner. Basically, it’s pretty much perfect.
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Different brands of penne pasta will vary in this recipe. The cooking times given in the recipe are for penne pasta that has a package cook time of 11-12 minutes (for al dente). You'll want to adjust accordingly for pasta with shorter or longer cook times (reduce the broth by 1/2 cup to 1 cup if using pasta that has a 7-8 minute cooking time, adding additional broth at the end, if needed).
This makes a fairly saucy pasta as that is our preference; if you want slightly less sauce, consider adding only 3 1/2 cups broth and adding more at the end, if needed. The sauce will thicken even more as the pasta rests.
- 8 slices bacon, chopped
- 8 ounces baby bella mushrooms, sliced
- 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 3 cups milk, divided (meaning you'll use 2 cups at first and 1 cup later in the recipe)
- 12 ounces penne pasta
- 1 pound asparagus, tough ends trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
- In a 12-inch nonstick skillet or in a large pot, cook the bacon until crispy. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and drain all but a teaspoon of the bacon grease. Over medium heat, add the mushrooms and season lightly with salt and pepper; cook until the mushrooms are browned and the liquid is mostly evaporated, 4-5 minutes. Transfer to the same plate as bacon.
- To the skillet or pot, add the broth, 2 cups of the milk, the pasta, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon 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 4-5 minutes, until the asparagus is tender and the pasta is al dente but still slightly firm (it will cook for a few more minutes later). There will be some liquid left; that's ok as it will help make the creamy sauce in the next step.
- In a blender, process the remaining 1 cup milk, cream cheese and flour until very smooth. Gradually add it to the skillet or pot while stirring quickly to combine. Simmer for a couple of minutes until the sauce has thickened.
- Remove the skillet or pot from the heat. Stir in the bacon and mushrooms, reserving a bit of the bacon to sprinkle on top, if desired. Stir in the Parmesan cheese or sprinkle it on top, also.
Recipe Source: Mel’s Kitchen Cafe