It's been a while, eh? I guess since last Wednesday, no too long, but apparently a billion years in the blogging world. Instead of ripping my hair out with the billion things I have on my plate AND keeping up with blog land, I decided to put the blog on the back-burner for a few days while I got everything sorted out (made it through the primary program, a full week of Utah Wind Symphony rehearsals, and one crisis after another). It was a nice break (although stuffed with other non-blog related things). Blogging isn't the center of my family & social life, so it wasn't a big deal for me, but I truly missed sharing recipes with all of you, and made sure to take a second to at least photograph what we've been munching on.
With the cold weather rolling into the valley on a more frequent basis (we woke up with snow flurries this morning!), my favorite thing to make for dinner is either soup or a really hearty casserole. Of course, we can't have something like this every night (especially a dish like this), but it's always a special treat for us - especially if bacon in involved. And as you can easily see - there's a lot of bacon punch in this dish.
I know using whole grain pasta doesn't really balance out the amount of cheese/butter in this dish, but there's definitely enough in there to make me feel a little better about myself. haha. Whenever we buy anything like bread, tortillas, or pasta, you know darn well we're going with whole grain, multi grain, or whole wheat. Our son doesn't know the difference, and sometimes I catch my husband eating a whole dish of it without noticing either. Or maybe he's just accepted the fact that I'm going to use it in everything instead of white flour. I'm not a white-flour-nazi, I just think the whole grain is heartier, and fills us up faster at the dinner table.
The base of this casserole is my simple alfredo sauce. If you ever have the choice of using homemade alfredo sauce, and opening up the jar of store-bought alfredo sauce, always always always go with the homemade. The store-bought stuff has such a funky smell to it (I've tried several brands), and never really measures up to the real thing. I know, I know, it takes a fraction of the time to use the jar vs. the scratch stuff, but the scratch version really doesn't take that long at all, and you can build the flavors up however you want for whatever type of dish you're using it for. For this dish, I made it pretty thick. I knew a majority of the flavor from the casserole would be from the bacon and the alfredo sauce, so making it a little more garlicy and with fresh mozzarella was a must.
You wanna know how to tell if you have a good batch of fresh mozzarella from the store? Take a look at the photo below...
Strings and strings of cheesy goodness. You should be able to stretch it pretty far. That's when you know you've hit the cheese jackpot, and also, that you've created a dinner that the whole family is going to eat up without even batting an eye.
Might be a good idea to serve this along some steamed broccoli or other veggies, and a few fresh slices of those juicy Fall apples that seem to still have their perfect crisp about them. This is a thick, hearty one, and will most certainly stick to your bones! Enjoy!
Bacon Alfredo Bake with Whole Grain Pasta
makes 6 servings
8oz whole grain penne or any other short pasta
3 T butter
1 T chopped garlic
3 T all-purpose flour
1 C milk (can be skim up to whole)
2 C chicken stock
salt & pepper
1 C mozzarella, divided
6 slices bacon, cooked to a crisp, drained, crumbled
parsley, for sprinkling
1. Cook pasta according to directions on the package. Set aside. Make sure bacon is cooked, too, if not already (easiest method is baking on a cookie sheet at 400 degrees until crispy).
2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Make alfredo sauce: melt butter in a saucepan, then add the garlic, Cook until garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Whisk in flour until a paste forms. Season with salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in milk, then whisk in chicken stock over medium heat. Let come to a boil, then reduce to a simmer until thickened. Add in 1 C mozzarella to melt. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Prep a baking dish (I did a 4x7ish oval one) with a little cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine the cooked pasta, alfredo sauce, and half the crumbled bacon. Stir together, then pour into the prepared baking dish. Top with 1 C mozzarella, the rest of the bacon, and a little parsley. Bake for 20 minutes until cheese is bubbly. Serve hot with a side salad.
Recipe source: baking with blondie