Creamy Mushroom & Bacon Pasta

When I was pregnant with little C, I, like all expectant mothers, had my own hopes and wishes for my daughter-to-be.  I didn’t have her whole life planned out from before she even arrived though, not at all.  To this day in fact, I am, admittedly, not as organized in the child-rearing department as I ought to be. 

Nursery rhymes?  Arts and crafts time? Daily schedules?  Play dates?  I’m almost three years into motherhood and I still don’t have a handle on those things.

But anyway, those wishes…

I wished that, unlike me, she be less of a girly-girl and more of a toughie.

I wished that, unlike me, she be more physically active and athletic.

I wished that, unlike me, she be more assertive.

I can certainly say that I got all that I wished for.  Little C loves to run around, preferably barefoot, without a care for the cute outfits I put her in.  She seems to never tire, as long as a good time is to be had and more adventure calls.  I have, many times, looked with envy at kids passed out on their strollers in restaurants while their parents continued on with their evening – while I, yet again, bolt to catch up to my little one, who is already faster than I am.  She knows what she wants and is always on a mission to get just that.  She has always been entranced more with balls than books (unlike me).  Little and Big C can spend hours kicking the ball around…or until she wears her papa out (after which she shouts out to me the dreaded, “Mama, let’s play soccer!”).  Be careful what you wish for! 

We do have something in common though (aside from untamable curly hair)…an inordinate love for pasta (and pretty much all carbohydrates).

Creamy Mushroom & Bacon Pasta
  • 150-200 grams uncooked penne pasta
  • Olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/2 of a white onion, chopped
  • 50-70 grams slab bacon, cut into strips
  • 200-250 grams oyster mushrooms (I use 2 packs of fresh oyster mushrooms from the Ministry of Mushrooms)
  • 1-2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup cream
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- Cook the pasta as per package instructions.  Make sure to salt your pasta water.  Drain, saving a cupful of the pasta water, and set aside.
- While the pasta is cooking you can start with the sauce.  Heat a skillet or wok on medium high heat.  When hot, add a couple of swirls of olive oil.  Add the garlic and onions to the hot oil and sauté until the onion is soft and translucent.
- Add the bacon to the pan and continue to sauté, stirring, until bacon strips are cook and some of the fat is rendered.  Don’t let it get too toasty.
- Add the mushrooms to the pan and toss.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add a tablespoon of water and cook until the mushrooms wilt and soften.  If the mixture gets too dry add another spoonful of water.
- When the mushrooms are soft add the 1/2 cup of the cream and stir.  Keep stirring to get all the bits – let the cream infuse with the caramelized flavors that have accumulated in the pan.  If the sauce looks to dry, add the rest of the cream.  Taste and adjust seasoning.
- Add the cooked pasta noodles into the pan a little at a time, tossing as you do.  Once the ratio of noodles to sauce is to your preference take the pan off the heat.  You may not use all the noodles.  If the sauce gets to claggy add a bit of the pasta water to loosen.
 - Serve immediately with some freshly grated Parmesan on the side.  Serves two.

This is a simple, quick, and comforting dish.  The simple earthiness of the mushrooms, the smoky indulgence of the bacon, all enveloped in the creamy sauce is one of my favorite pasta combinations.  You can easily adjust this according to what you have on hand or what your family prefers.  Use different types of mushrooms or regular bacon instead of slab bacon, or your favorite pasta shape.  You can add chopped fresh parsley at the end or toss in some cooked peas for a little more nutrition.  I like to have mine with a fresh grating of nutmeg, but you can also add some smoked paprika or cayenne for a bit of heat.

As for all the other things above (crafts and Mother Goose and play dates…oh my!), I’ve just let them, shamefully or not, fall by the wayside.  Instead of creating a brand new extra-curricular life for my little one, I’ve decided to just incorporate her into the one we already have.  So we do market visits, and cooking and baking sessions, learning the look and smell of different vegetables, seeing where her “fishies” come from (no my dear, they don’t come in fillet form), swimming, dancing, beach-bumming, and, just with papa though, football and all manners of ball throwing/kicking action. 

In truth, I am happy I got all my wishes.  Deep down, I love that she is all those things.  I dream that as she grows up she remains this strong and spirited girl, with the confidence and clarity to continue to put on her favorite twirly dress and proclaim “I’m a princess!” even as her hair is a wild mess and her feet deplorably dirty…then run off to a rousing game of kick-the-ball-senseless.

And anyway, we’ll always have pasta!