February 24, 2011

On being a closet vegetarian lover of Bacon Pasta

Filed under: Daily life,Pasta,Recipes — pyjamasandtea @ 11:16 am
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I love Moosewood Restaurant.  The cookbooks and the restaurant both.  I have been a vegetarian for almost twenty-five years.  I entered that state of consumption (or lack thereof) for ethical reasons, and probably to assert my independence against my overbearing carnivore husband of the time.  I was young and living in a very small town.  I didn’t have a whole lot of ways to assert.

Over the years I have waxed and waned in my commitment to vegetarianism.  At various points in time, I was really strict (though never a vegan)(and I always roasted marshmallows in the summer even though they contain gelatin).  When my eldest son was born, my then husband and I (not the same carnivore, a different one, and a longer story) decided that he too would be a vegetarian.  This confounded folks who believe that humanity should have the right to “choose” to be vegetarian.  The default human condition being to eat meat?  My three children remain mostly-vegetarians, though over the years we have allowed them to first eat fish, and then seafood (the seafood exception was prompted by a yearly “lobster-fest” in abject defiance of both vegetarian and kosher rules with a strict cone of silence around the merriment of clandestine eating).  Vegetarian kids are a challenge, for the faux-meat products I resorted to (chick’n nuggets, meatless meatballs) are full of additives that mock Michael Pollan’s edict that we should only eat food with ingredients we recognize.  But still… kids have to eat and legumes just don’t cut it on a daily basis.  And so now they eat fish.  (Tilapia is their staple.  Once I tried to pass flounder off as tilapia but was roundly condemned as a big fat food liar.)

Now their mother… she has really fallen off the rails in terms of being a card-carrying vegetarian.  (I really do carry a card.  Honest.)  Having fallen in love with the most devoted of carnivores, and one who loves to cook and eat to boot, I have branched out from pescatarianism (a label I tried to use once in a while, but which always made people laugh even harder at me).  I now include three meat by-products in my staple of vegetarian-friendly meals.  I say vegetarian-friendly because I still call myself a vegetarian… it defines me!, even as I realize that these items are neither vegetarian nor friendly.  I adore bacon, hot genoa salami and a frozen chicken wing product called “Spicy Southern Style Chicken Wings” by Presidents Choice.  I believe that these items are neither meat, nor truly food.  I therefore maintain they fit in my “vegetarian-friendly” category.  What should I label myself as now?  What do you call yourself when you hide out in your pyjamas and eat chemically-created-meat-products?

With that rather long introduction, I offer tonight’s meal:  Bacon Pasta

  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 3 slices Thin Bacon, Cut Into 1/2-inch Pieces (okay I admit it… I use 3 as a guideline)
  • 3 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1 package (10 Ounce) White Button Mushrooms, Sliced Thin (It is also divine with fancier mushrooms like oyster or enoki but you don’t have to go there.)
  • 1 cup Low Sodium Chicken Broth (OR Dry White Wine) (I use the wine.  Duh.)
  • 1 cup Half-and-half
  • ¼ cups Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 3 whole Green Onions, White And Light Green Parts Sliced
  • ¼ cups Flat-leaf Parsley, Minced (I never add the parsley because I resent buying big bunches and having it go to waste.)
  • ½ cups Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • Salt To Taste
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper, To Taste
  • 1 pound Thin Spaghetti Or Angel Hair Pasta (if you can find fresh, it is so worth it.  I would use whole wheat pasta and pretend it compensates for the heavy cream.)
  • Extra Parmesan, For Sprinkling

Cook pasta according to package directions.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add bacon pieces and cook until light brown but not crisp. Remove bacon from pan and set aside. Do not clean pan. (Don’t you love it when you don’t have to clean in between steps.  Yahoo!)

Add mushrooms and garlic to pan and cook over medium-high heat for 5 minutes or til golden-brown and smelling delicious.

Pour in wine. Stir, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any bits. Cook over medium-high heat for several minutes, or until the liquid is reduced by half.

Reduce heat and pour in half and half and cream. Stir and allow to bubble and thicken for a couple of minutes. Add sliced green onions and parsley (if you must), then cook for one more minute. Finally, add Parmesan and stir, allowing cheese to melt and incorporate into the sauce. Turn off heat.

Add cooked pasta to a large bowl. Add half the sauce from the pan. Toss with tongs. ***Add 1/2 cup hot pasta water at this point if the pasta mixture is too thick and gunky (a food term of art).


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