Penne with asparagus and mushrooms.

Here in Southwest Ohio, asparagus season is in full swing, about 3 weeks early by my estimation. And I’m planning to eat it weekly until either a) I’m sick of it, or b) it’s gone.

Early in the season, I’ve been in the mood to toss asparagus with pasta in some combination or another; soon, I’ll move on to enjoying this springiest of vegetables in a simpler form: grilled or roasted, with a spritz of lemon juice.

I think of mushrooms as a spring ingredient, too, even though they’re available year-round. Perhaps it’s because morels come into the local market right about now (at 70 bucks a pound—yikes!). Still, mushrooms and asparagus seemed a nice combination, and thus emerged this recipe for penne with asparagus, mushrooms and bacon.

penne pasta with asparagus and mushrooms

(serves 2 generously)

1 rounded cup uncooked penne (whole-wheat would be nice here)
1 bunch fresh asparagus, tough ends snapped off, spears cut into 1-inch lengths
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 slice bacon, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. heavy cream
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

In a sauté pan, cook bacon until just beginning to crisp; remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Return pan to medium heat and add sliced mushrooms to the bit of bacon grease in the pan. Sauté until golden brown, about 6 to 7 minutes; add garlic and sauté 1 minute. Add cream and stir until it thickens slightly. Turn off heat.

Bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions, adding asparagus to the pot 3 minutes before the pasta is done. Drain pasta and asparagus, reserving about 1/2 cup of cooking liquid. Return to pot; add mushroom sauce and stir, adding a bit of cooking liquid if necessary to create a nice sauce. Add parsley. Serve topped with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

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