Tonight I made a pasta dish, inspired by a recent post from Laura at (not so) Urban Hennery. It is based on a recipe from Nigel Slater, and it involves cooking bacon in butter. It sounded so wonderfully insane that I had to try it. I added in a few extras from the market this week, and produced the best creamy pasta sauce I've ever made.
Creamy pasta with bacon and spring market finds: baby leeks, green garlic, shitake mushrooms, and asparagus
~3 tablespoons butter
5 slices of bacon (or so), as lean as possible*, cut into lardons (I used peppered bacon)
3 baby leeks, roughly chopped
3 stalks of green garlic, sliced thin (I use the whole green stalk but not the leaves)
~1 cup of shitake mushrooms, chopped
~1 cup of thin asparagus spears, in 2-inch pieces
1 cup of heavy whipping cream
Fresh chives for snipping
pasta for two (I used fresh linguine, so the timing below is for fresh pasta)
Get your pasta water ready to go. I use my electric kettle for rapid boiling (then I add it to the pot I'll be using) or at least put a lid on the pot when heating the water (saves energy by bringing it to a boil faster.) Don't put the lid on when cooking the pasta though!
Prep all ingredients beforehand. It will make your life easier, trust me.
Melt butter in a large skillet. Add bacon and cook over medium heat until the bacon begins to color. Add in the leeks and green garlic, and cook until tender. Once the bacon takes on a bit more color and the leeks/garlic are soft, add the shitake mushrooms to the pan. When they start to lose a bit of their raw look, add the asparagus.
Drop your pasta into the boiling water, and cook for the recommended time. When it is done to taste, drain it, reserving a half cup or so of the cooking water (I like to catch the last bit of water that drains off - it has a lot of starch from the pasta, and makes an excellent thickener for sauces.)
While the pasta is cooking and once the asparagus is tender, add the cream to the bacon/vegetable/mushroom mixture. Stir well, and allow it to bubble briefly. Add a little of the pasta cooking water (I used maybe 1/4 cup) and allow the cream sauce to gently bubble until it thickens a little. Turn off the heat and add the drained pasta to the skillet, tossing to mix. Divvy the pasta into bowls, and top with snipped chives (and maybe a grating of local cheese, or parmigiana reggiano.)
*The bacon I had wasn't very lean, so I cooked the lardons from fattiest section in a separate pan, discarding the fat (or saving it for a spinach salad or other application.) I cooked it until crispy, then sprinkled it on top of the bowls of pasta. The texture contrast was heavenly!
This pasta was served with locally made whole wheat bread and a salad of (local, hothouse) cucumbers and grape tomatoes. Dessert was a bowl of fresh strawberries, no sugar or cream required! Although I have to say that hothouse or hoophouse vegetables make me feel like I'm cheating!
All of these ingredients were locally grown or produced. They were purchased at either the North Market Farmer's Market, the North Market proper, the Clintonville Farmer's Market, the Westerville Farmer's Market, or the Worthington Farmer's Market. The butter was purchased at The Raisin Rack.
Butter: Hartzler's Dairy (Wooster, ~88 miles)
Shitake mushrooms: Toby Run (Bellville, ~50 miles)
Asparagus: Anderson's Orchard (Pickerington, ~26 miles)
Leeks: Comb's Fresh Herbs (Gahanna, ~12 miles)
Green Garlic: Just This Farm (Galloway, ~24 miles)
Cream: Snowville Creamery in Pomeroy, Ohio (They sell it in 1/2 gallon cartons! What a fabulous idea!) They are about 95 miles away, and the only local dairy to sell whipping cream.
Pasta: Pastaria in the North Market
Bacon: Blues Creek (Marysville, ~30 miles)
Cucumbers: Bird's Haven Farms (Granville, ~25 miles)
Grape tomatoes: H-W Organic Farms (Sullivan, ~85 miles)
Strawberries: Rhoad's Farm (Circleville, ~40 miles)
Bread: Der Bake Oven (Fredericktown, ~45 miles)
Chives: pot of herbs (my back yard, 5 feet)