'Tis the season for enjoying the first of the asparagus crop. Slender and tender, the spears we see this early in spring only want a touch of heat and can hold their own when paired with assertive flavor kings like garlic and bacon. My first batch of the season got a simple treatment with those along with a light cream sauce and al dente pasta. The result was a quick meal with a decidedly spring flavor.
What's really super about this dish is that it's really a meal in itself. You could pair it with a salad and bread, but a bowl on its own with maybe a glass of chilled wine will equally be welcomed at the table. Because it's in one skillet at the table and can be dished up in a single bowl, it also works well as one of those first al fresco dinners of the year. Grab the skillet, some forks and bowls, and head out to the picnic table. Dinner is served! No wonder Madame de Pompadour considered asparagus tips (referred lovingly to as points d'amour) a delicacy to be savored.
- 6 slices thick-cut bacon
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 8 oz. fresh asparagus, cut into 2-3" pieces
- 1 cup half-and-half
- 16 oz. rigatoni, cooked al dente and drained
- 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Fry the bacon in a large, oven-proof skillet until very crisp, but not blackened. Remove from the pan and drain off any excess bacon drippings. Add the garlic and sauté over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Add the fresh asparagus and continue to cook until it is crisp-tender, about 7 minutes.
Place the cooked bacon in a blender or food processor and process until the bacon is minced finely. Add the bacon to the asparagus and garlic in the pan. Add the half-and-half and stir gently to combine. Toss the sauce with the pasta in the skillet and sprinkle with the mozzarella cheese. Bake in the preheated oven for 8 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Serve immediately.
- Yields: 6 to 8 servings
- Preparation Time: 30 minutes