A frying pan or any shallow pot large enough to allow you to toss everything together is all you need. And the beauty of using only one pan is that you don’t lose any flavor. All the goodness from the bacon and the garlicky butter are soaked up by the noodles.
Don’t believe you can cook this beautiful dish with just one pan? Let me show you.
Take a frying pan, pour in water, add salt and bring to the boil. Dump in the pasta and cook. Pour the pasta into a strainer (you may want to save a cup of the pasta water), wipe the pan and set it on the stove once more.
Spread the bacon in the pan and cook until browned and a generous amount of fat has been rendered. Scoop out the bacon but leave all the rendered fat in the pan.
Cook the asparagus in bacon fat and remember to scrape the bottom and sides of the pan to loosen browned bits from the bacon. That’s flavor and you don’t want to lose any of that.
Note that asparagus spears don’t always come in uniform sizes. You may get thick and thin ones in the same batch. If this is the case, cook the larger pieces first to give them a headstart. Add the smaller ones after a minute or so.
If there is very little fat that remains in the pan, you’ll need to add more to cook the garlic in. Unless you have extra bacon fat lying around, butter is the next best thing. Melt butter in the pan and lightly brown chopped garlic in it.
Add the cooked macaroni to the garlic and toss to coat each noodle with the garlicky butter. Add your cooked asparagus and bacon to the pasta, and toss to distribute the meat and vegetable evenly.
Finally, you create the sauce with pasta water and shredded cheese. Like I said, you need only one pan from start to finish. You don’t need an array of dinnerware to serve this dish in either. It’s a one bowl meal. Toast on the side is optional.
Bacon asparagus mac and cheese
- Boil about eight cups of water with a teaspoon of salt in a pan.
- Dump in the pasta and cook until al dente.
- Save a cup of pasta water, drain the pasta and set aside.
- Wipe the pan dry and set on the stove over medium heat.
- Spread the bacon on the bottom of the pan and leave until the undersides are starting to brown and a little rendered fat is visible.
- Toss the bacon and continue cooking until browned enough to your liking.
- Scoop out the bacon and set aside.
- Spread the asparagus in the bacon fat and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.
- Cook until done but still a bit crisp, scoop out and set aside.
- Melt the butter in the pan.
- Spread the chopped garlic in the hot butter and cook, stirring after the first half minute, until lightly browned.
- Add the cooked pasta to the garlic, sprinkle in the lemon pepper seasoning and toss to coat each noodle with the combined bacon fat and butter.
- Add the bacon and asparagus to the macaroni and toss to distribute.
- Toss in the shredded cheese.
- Drizzle in pasta water, a few tablespoons at a time, to give the cheese enough liquid to melt in.
- Cook, stirring gently, until the cheese is melted and has formed light creamy sauce.
- Taste, adjust the seasonings, if needed, and serve.