It's amazing how the food preferences or dietary needs of those around us can shift the way we cook, sometimes without our even realizing it's happened. One member of our family is allergic to avocados. Avocados are one of my all-time favorite ingredients, and I used to buy them frequently, probably once a week. I have also loved using avocado oil for cooking, particularly for searing meat or fish. Now I hardly ever have avocados around the house. I haven't bought avocado oil in at least a year, because I don't want to inadvertently make anybody sick.
Earlier this week. my partner kindly brought home a pizza with loads of tasty toppings on it, accidentally including mushrooms. All three of the kids don't typically enjoy mushrooms. My oldest son walked over to me, plate of pizza in hand, and asked me if I would get all the mushrooms off of it for him. While I was tediously searching for every last speck of mushroom, it occurred to me that I probably haven't made a recipe with mushrooms at home in years. As best as I can tell, the last recipe I wrote that had mushrooms in it was in 2012. Unbelievable. I love mushrooms. Without even realizing it, I had virtually banished the ingredient from the house because of the kids and their preferences.
I headed into the store the next day with purpose, making a beeline for the mushrooms. I was determined to make a mushroom dish, something very grown up and sophisticated and not give a rip if any of the kids in the house would like it. (But let's be real — I always give a rip. But at least I tried.) I made myself a big bowl of bowtie pasta in a velvety goat cheese sauce with slightly wilted spinach, topped with crispy bacon and lots of sliced mushrooms that I browned in a pan with a little of the bacon fat. Three words: to die for.
Pasta with bacon, mushrooms, spinach and goat cheese
16 ounces dry farfalle pasta
6 slices bacon
24 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
5 ounces fresh spinach
6 ounces goat cheese
salt and pepper to taste
Place a large pot of generously salted water over high heat and bring to a rolling boil. Add the pasta and cook al dente, according to package directions, about 11 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the bacon slices in a large saute pan over medium-high heat until rendered and crisp on both sides. Remove the bacon from the pan and set aside. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of bacon fat. Return the pan to the heat, reducing it to medium, and add the mushrooms. Cook the mushrooms on one side until golden and caramelized, then turn them and brown them on the other side. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes to the pan, sautéing until the garlic is fragrant, about 60-90 seconds. Season with salt. Remove the mushrooms and garlic from the pan and set aside.
Return the pan to the heat. De-glaze the pan with the white wine, scraping the browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Stir in the chicken broth and cream. When the liquid is warmed through, whisk in the Parmesan cheese until melted.
Drain the pasta and return to the pot. Pour the Parmesan cream sauce over the hot pasta. Stir in the spinach and goat cheese, so that the spinach begins to wilt and the goat cheese begins to melt and thicken the sauce. Crumble the bacon and add it to the pot along with the mushrooms. Toss everything to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve promptly.
Maya Wilson lives in Kenai and blogs about food at alaskafromscratch.com. Have a food question or recipe request? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and your inquiry may appear in a future column.