Saturday, May 31, 2014

Portland Pasta

Pasta with bacon, mushrooms and asparagus in Marsala sauceI love Portland. It's a great city with lots to see and do, and most importantly, the food is incredible! There's a real emphasis on local and seasonal foods there, and the local restaurants, including the range of awesome brewpubs, are creative with it. JC and I were there for 12 days, and since it was May, asparagus was everywhere. Even the regional burger chain, Burgerville, offered fried asparagus spears (think tempura!) with a garlic aioli on the menu!

One day for lunch, we went to BridgePort Brewing Company. Their daily pasta was penne with bacon, mushrooms and asparagus in a Marsala sauce and it was incredible! It was so good that I haven't stopped thinking about it since and I tried to replicate it at home last night. The results were fantastic, even if it wasn't exactly like the dish I had at the restaurant -- their sauce was thicker than mine, despite what should have been plenty of time for it to reduce, but once the pasta was added, that was irrelevant. This is really easy to make too -- always a bonus!

For four dinner entree servings:
  • 1 pound short pasta -- I use Barilla Plus and I used farfalle instead of penne 
  • 8 ounces diced bacon -- the restaurant used slab bacon, but I couldn't find it; regular bacon is fine! 
  • 1/2 cup finely diced onion 
  • 1 medium size shallot, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 10 ounces sliced mushrooms
  • 1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 inch long pieces 
  • 1 cup Marsala 
  • 3 cups beef broth -- I used College Inn 
  • 1 stick cold butter 

Bring a pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. Cook pasta until desired doneness and drain it. Set aside.

While the pasta cooks, cook the bacon until crispy. Drain on paper towels and set aside. Discard all but two tablespoons of the drippings. Add the onion, shallot and garlic to the bacon fat and saute over medium heat until softened. Add the mushrooms and stir well. Cook covered for a few minutes to allow the flavors to blend and the mushrooms to start softening.

Add the Marsala and beef broth, plus several grinds of fresh pepper. Raise the heat to high and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, to allow the liquids to reduce. Add the asparagus, except for the tips, and cook for five minutes. Add the tips and reserved bacon pieces and cook another 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and add the cold butter in pieces, whisking them in one by one. Once the butter has been incorporated, add the pasta and mix well. Serve with more fresh pepper and a dusting of freshly grated Parmesan if desired.