The torrential rains have hit our little corner of the Pacific NW heralding soggy basements, soggier cyclists, and chanterelle season. It’s a price I’m willing to pay for toothy, golden, slightly peppery apricot-y fungi that deftly dance along that balance between delicate yet meaty and savory with a soupçon of sweetness. I threw this pasta together one day to sate my bacon craving. Yes, I created a mushroom-based pasta sauce because I was craving salty, crispety crunchety bacon. It seemed like a good idea at the time and according to the
bottomless pit hubster and beta testers, it’s a good idea that needs repeating, lather, rinse and more repeating. The tangy cherry tomatoes give you a velvety sauce that highlights the fleshy chanterelles with notes of heat from the crushed red pepper tempered by a dollop of cream and interspersed with pops of color (along with fiber, vitamins A and K, and magnesium and manganese to name just a few) in the form of wilted baby spinach. And the pièce de resistance? The crrrrrispy tidbits of savory bacon that satisfies your tastebuds’ needs for salt and your mouth’s love of texture. The fact that dinner is served in <45 minutes is just another reason to put this dish in your regular line up 🙂 And who wouldn’t rather have a house redolent of bacon instead of wet dog? None of this explains why the hubby and friends chortle as they skip their way into the kitchen to get seconds …. It must be something in the humid air or a savory breakthrough in the treatment of seasonal affective disorder? 😉
Want to know to make an easy dish easier?
1) Clean off all those woody splinters and forest debris from your delectable chanterelles by first rinsing them off under running water, preferably using the hand sprayer if you have one. Soak them in a mixing bowl filled with cold water and keep them submerged by placing a heavy colander on top of them.
2) Make sure to drain your crispety bacon well with paper towels after you’ve browned it, blotting the tops so they get really dry. This will give you crunchety bacon that will keep it’s texture even after it gets mixed into the pasta.
3) Reserve a cup of pasta water to adjust the consistency of your sauce if needed. The salty starchy pasta water will help loosen up a dry or seized up sauce without turning it bland or watery. I like to dip a mug into the pasta pot just before I drain the pasta into a colander.
4 slices lean, thick cut bacon, diced
1 small shallot, finely diced
2 tsp (~3 cloves) crushed garlic
1/4 + 1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1 lb chanterelles, cleaned and in 1-inch pieces (don’t discard the stems, they’re thoroughly delicious and not woody at all!)
3 c cherry tomatoes, I used frozen Sungolds from our garden
2 tbsp shredded Parmesan
2 tbsp heavy cream
5 oz baby spinach
12 oz campanelle pasta or your favorite scoop shaped pasta like farfalle or orchiette
In a large ~12 1/2-inch sauté pan or 3 quart pot brown bacon over med-hi heat till crisp. Drain and blot on paper towels and set aside while reserving bacon grease in pan. If you use a lean, thick cut bacon (I like Trader Joe’s brand which also happens to be uncured without added nitrites or nitrates 🙂 ) you should end up with ~ 1-2 tbsp of bacon grease.
Sauté shallot and garlic in bacon grease over med-lo heat till shallots are soft and translucent ~5 minutes. Stir in crushed red pepper, 1/4 tsp sea salt, and chanterelles and sauté till chanterelles release their juices ~7-10 minutes. Add tomatoes and simmer till they burst open and the sauce thickens to the consistency of a thin ketchup ~5 minutes. Stir in Parmesan and cream, mixing well, then turn off heat.
In a large ~6 quart pot bring water and remaining 1 tsp sea salt to a roiling boil. Boil pasta till chewy but not tender enough to be al dente. I like to set a timer for 1 minute less than the recommended cooking time. Reserve a cup of pasta water then drain pasta and add to pasta sauce pan. Finish pasta by simmering it in the sauce so it soaks up all those yummy flavors you’ve been cultivating till it is al dente. Stir in spinach and mix thoroughly to wilt it. Mix in crispy bacon bits. Creates 4-6 servings, giggly dining companions, and helps dispel the onslaught of rainy fall blues.