This has got to be one of the best ways ever to do pasta!
But before I get into that, can I just say that I felt like such an idiot the other day when I finally came to an obvious conclusion about something that was making me feel a little bit crazy. More like honest to goodness clinically insane actually, but let’s not even go there. So a few weeks ago my dad got this new kitchen item that he was really excited about. It’s this ginormous thermos for keeping the coffee hot as long as possible. You see, around here there is some serious consumption of Jo, no messing around. Certain members of my family require at least two cups to function normally, just sayin. We use an old-fashioned stove-top percolator, (mostly because we went through one too many of the only stupid electric ones made by the brands available here) but the amount of people constantly wanting to heat up the pot was starting to really chew up propane so we needed another option. Hence, the arrival of said thermos.
I’ve gotta tell you, it’s way more tempting to drink coffee when it’s ready to go at the push of a button, dangerously tempting. Which brings me to that realization I was getting at, up until this thermos I’ve been strictly a one-cupper where coffee is concerned, but having it ready all time made it too easy to up that to two cups. I spent quite a few days last week wondering what in the world was up with me and why I was having mood swings and feeling so anxious until it dawned on me that it was probably due to that lovely black stuff. Bummer right? Clearly I am caffeine light-weight and need to go easy if I want to avoid a straight jacket. Forgive me coffee, my love, we’ll just have to keep the relationship status at friends!
All right, but my personal mental issues aside, let’s talk pasta! Please tell me that you have all had the chance to eat at The Cheesecake Factory at least once??? It has got to be one of my favorite restaurants that I can remember ever eating at, but alas, they don’t extend there business all the way down here so I haven’t been in years. The last time I went though, was in Florida when my mom took Liv and I on a short little girl’s getaway trip. It was a blast and we had so much fun eating out and even hitting up some Disney parks while we were there. (Sidenote warning: Oh, did you guys hear about the Norway ride? My aunt who shares my (somewhat closeted) fanaticism over all things Disney sent me a video of it and I was like what! They turned the whole thing into a Frozen ride and I have pretty mixed feelings because I actually used to love the original.
Anyway, we ate at Cheesecake Factory at least twice on that trip and both times mom and I wanted the same thing because it was so incredible. Their bowtie pasta with bacon, peas, chicken, and this yummy roasted garlic cream sauce that leaves you wanting to keep going back in for more even when you’re stuffed to your limit. In fact, it falls right next to coffee in that category of things being too hard to resist when they aren’t limited. It also doesn’t help that the portion sizes they serve at CF are enough for about four people (not that I’m complaing, hello leftovers!).
Mom and I were thinking back to that trip recently and when we started talking about that pasta I just knew I had to make a copycat version of it for my gang and to share with you guys. Well that, and it was a cheaper option than buying plane tickets to the nearest branch of their restaurants.
Roasted garlic is sort of the star component to this sauce and it’s so, so easy to do. If you aren’t already going to be using your oven for another purpose though, it does seem a bit wasteful to heat the whole thing just for a head or two of garlic and that’s why I love using a toaster oven that heats a much smaller space. Every time I use roasted garlic I have one of those hand-to-forehead moments wondering why I don’t do it more. Then there is something about combining it with all of these flavors that makes the finished dish irresistible. Pasta would definitely be near the top of my weakness list and this is one of my all time faves! (Update: A reader reminded me that mushrooms play a big role in the flavors here and I wanted to be sure and add them to the recipe so check out the notes.)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 head garlic
- 1 pound uncooked bacon
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 4 ounces cream cheese
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
- 1 cup shelled spring peas
- 1 pound farfalle (bow tie) pasta, cooked according to package
- Sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven [a toaster oven is best if you've got it] to 400 degrees F (200 C). Take the head of garlic and use a serrated edge knife to slice off the top just enough that you're exposing the garlic cloves a bit. Place the garlic on a piece of foil and drizzle with olive oil (about a tablespoon), then wrap foil around the head and place it on a small baking tray. Roast it in the oven for 30 to 35 minutes until the garlic feels really soft. when you press on the outside. Let it cool, then gently squeeze the bulb and the cloves of garlic should pop right out. Place the cloves in a small bowl and mash with a fork, then set aside.
- In a large skillet with lid, cook bacon over medium high heat until crispy then remove to a paper towel lined plate and set aside. Add the chicken breasts to the pan, cover with a lid, and let them cook in the bacon grease for 3 to 4 minutes per side or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F (75 C) and no pink remains. Remove chicken from skillet to a cutting board, chop into bite size pieces, then place it in a dish and cover to prevent it drying out and set aside also.
- Add the onion to pan and saute for 2 to 3 minutes until translucent. Now add the roasted garlic and pour in the white wine to deglaze the pan. Stir to loosen anything stuck to the pan and allow the wine to mostly evaporate, then reduce heat to lowest setting.
- Whisk milk and flour in a small glass or bowl until smooth then poor into pan while stirring. Continue stirring until the sauce begins to thicken slightly, then add in cream, parmesan, and cream cheese and stir until evenly melted. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.
- Add the peas, chicken, and pasta to the pan and stir over medium high until everything is heated through. Crumble bacon into pasta and serve hot with additional parmesan on top if desired.
This pasta is also made with mushrooms in the original dish and I adore the flavor they add but chose to leave them out so that my whole family would eat it (I've got mushroom haters). If you want to add them simply tack onto the ingredients list; 1 cup button or portabello mushrooms, sliced. Add them to the frying pan at the same time as the roasted garlic and white wine.