Cheese, pasta, bacon and beer. Each of these words solicits joy in the hearts of food lovers, but what happens when you combine them? That’s the idea behind this dish from Lori Rice, author of a new food-and-beer cookbook called “Food on Tap: Cooking with Craft Beer” (Countryman Press, $24.95).
Even without the beer, this dish would be a winner. It instructs you how to make a cheese sauce using the leftover pasta water, whose starch helps hold the sauce together without watering it down. If you do want to use beer, Rice suggests a pale ale like Sierra Nevada Brewing Company Pale Ale, Oskar Blues Brewery Dale’s Pale Ale or Deschutes Brewery Mirror Pond Pale Ale. A less hoppy British pale ale works in this recipe, too.
Cheesy Shrimp and Bacon Pale Ale Pasta with Green Peas
The light pale ale cheese sauce in this recipe delicately coats the pasta for a meal that’s hearty but not too heavy. Feel free to serve this meal with a pint of pale ale.
16 ounces pasta
4 slices thick-cut bacon, diced
1 pound 40/50 count medium raw shrimp, cleaned and tails removed
1/2 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
4 ounces pale ale
2 ounces sharp Cheddar, shredded
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup fresh or thawed green peas
Fill a large pot with water for your pasta. Turn to high and heat to boiling while you begin the pasta sauce.
For the pasta sauce, cook the bacon over medium-high heat in a large, heavy-bottomed pot, such as a Dutch oven, until the fat renders and the bacon begins to brown, about 4 minutes. Continue to cook for 2 to 3 more minutes, until it reaches your desired crispness. Add the shrimp and cook until opaque, about 2 more minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon and shrimp to a bowl, leaving the bacon grease behind.
Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to package directions while you finish the sauce.
Return the pot with bacon grease to medium-high heat and add the onion. Cook until it begins to soften, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour and whisk it into a dry paste. Reduce the heat to low. Continue to whisk as you pour in the pale ale. It will thicken into a paste as it simmers, about 30 seconds. Stir in the cheese, salt and pepper until the cheese melts. Increase the heat to medium-low if the cheese slows its melting.
Drain the pasta, but reserve the pasta water. Add the hot pasta to the sauce with 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Toss to coat the pasta with the sauce. If the sauce seems thick, add 1/4 to 1/2 cup more pasta water.
Stir in the peas. Transfer an equal amount of pasta to each serving bowl. Top with shrimp and bacon and toss gently in the bowls before serving. Leftovers will keep for up to two days in the refrigerator. Serves 4 to 6.
— From “Food on Tap: Cooking with Craft Beer” by Lori Rice (Countryman Press, $24.95)