Recipe: Penne with Roasted Asparagus, Bacon, and Shredded Gouda

I had asparagus still wrapped in its green plastic grocery bag sitting sadly on the top shelf in the fridge. In the cheese drawer, a package of bacon and a variety of cheeses intermingled, alongside a misplaced candy bar or two (my mother insists on stashing a few in the drawer—something about liking cold chocolate). As usual, I had no recipe planned out for dinner last night, but that asparagus was on its way out, so I decided to roast it and toss it with pasta, alongside crispy bacon and aged Gouda. The resulting dish was a little smoky, a little salty, and a little nutty—absolutely delicious, especially on a cool winter evening. Roasting the asparagus really brought out its flavor and helped crisp it up and it paired perfectly with the cheese and bacon.

Serves: 4
Prep. time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch asparagus, washed, ends clipped; cut each of the stalks into 2 inch pieces (each stalk can be cut into approx. 4 pieces)
  • 4-6 strips bacon; reserve 2 tbsp. bacon fat
  • 8 oz. penne pasta, or other small pasta (rotini, ziti, etc.)
  • Approx. 3/4 – 1 cup finely shredded Gouda (I used a hard, 5 year-aged Gouda from Whole Foods that was excellent)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 tbsp. butter
  • 1-3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus some for roasting the asparagus
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions
Preheat the oven to 450*F. Bring a medium-to-large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta. While heating the water for the pasta, heat up a medium pan over medium high heat and add the bacon, cooking until crispy. Set the bacon strips aside on a paper towel-covered plate and save approx. 2 tbsp. of the bacon fat in a small bowl or cup. Evenly spread the asparagus pieces in a shallow, oven-safe dish and add a splash of extra virgin olive oil and some salt and pepper—toss to combine. Place the asparagus in the oven and roast for 10-15 minutes, or until cooked through but still crispy. While the asparagus is cooking, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until done (about 12-14 minutes). Drain the pasta and return it to the pot, along with some or all of the reserved bacon fat (depends on how “bacon-y” you want it), butter, olive oil, and minced garlic, then toss to combine. Crumble the bacon strips and toss the pieces in with the pasta. When the asparagus is finished, remove it from the oven and toss it in with the pasta. Sprinkle the shredded Gouda into the pot and stir to combine—reserve some for the table so everyone eating can add more, if desired. Serve and enjoy.

This dish is packed with strong flavors that blend beautifully, creating an amazing aroma and delicious taste. The Gouda, especially if you get a good quality, aged cheese, is nutty, while the bacon is smoky, and both add salty flavor to the dish. Adding in fresh garlic gives it a pop of flavor and it smells wonderful. Adding butter, bacon fat, and olive oil creates a light, but flavorful sauce that easy coats the pasta and asparagus. 
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