Tuesday, 12 January 2010

The 21st Century Housewife's© Broccoli and Bacon Pasta

I used to worry about making sauces from scratch, but not any more! Even if you are new to cooking, don't let them intimidate you. Once you get the hang of them, most sauces are not difficult - you just have to remember to keep stirring. Also, in the case of this particular sauce, add the milk slowly and be aware you may not need it all. (You can always add more liquid, but you can't take it away!) This one is so easy and my homemade version not only tastes nicer than ready made cheese sauces, it is much less expensive. Plus you can avoid some of the unpronounceable ingredients and preservatives ready-made cheese sauces often contain.

This recipe is a great one for after a rough day as it takes very little time and effort to make. Also, as it relies on easy to find ingredients that are not too pricey it's great for the budget too.

In our house, broccoli is one of our favourite vegetables, but I have found that even people who really don't like broccoli often enjoy this recipe because of the yummy bacony cheese sauce. You can use smoked or unsmoked bacon; both work beautifully, it really is just a matter of taste. I do like to use wholewheat pasta because not only does it add fibre and make your dinner more nutritious, it also tastes really good!

1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup of bacon, chopped or 3/4 cup of bacon lardons (pre-chopped chunks of bacon)
1 small head of broccoli, washed and chopped in small florets
4 cups dried pasta, whole wheat if possible
2 tablespoons butter
3 generous tablespoons flour
1 and 1/2 to 2 cups milk
2 generous teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 cup grated mature (also known as strong or "old") cheddar cheese

Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the bacon over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until done. Steam the broccoli for about four minutes until tender. Drain and set aside. Cook the pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, melt the butter over medium heat in a small saucepan. Whisk in the flour and cook for a minute or two. Add the milk a little at a time, whisking after each addition and allowing to thicken a bit before adding more. You may need to turn the heat up a little at this point, but don't let it get too hot. When the sauce begins to reach a medium consistency (smooth and pourable, but not runny), add the cheese and stir in to melt. If the sauce gets too thick, just add a little more milk, a bit at a time. Stir in the mustard.

Drain the pasta and return it to the pan it was cooked in. Add the cooked bacon and broccoli and pour the sauce over. Stir to mix and heat through. Serve in warmed bowls. This is lovely accompanied by nice hot rolls, particularly at this chilly time of year!

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