Penne Baked with Smoked Bacon and Gruyere

YIELD: 16 servings

2 lbs. penne pasta, uncooked
1 lb. bacon, raw, minced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 qt. heavy cream
1 lb. Gruyere or Swiss-type cheese, shredded
to taste salt and pepper
3 Tbsps. fresh thyme leaves

  1. Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite. Drain well.
  2. Cook minced bacon over medium low heat until very crisp. Drain, reserving 3 Tbsps. of fat.
  3. Place reserved bacon fat in a skillet; add garlic and sauté until golden.Add cream; bring to a boil. Lower heat and reduce cream by one third ( 1 /3).
  4. Add 2 /3 of the cheese to the reduced cream mixture. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease a 2-in. full hotel pan (or 2, 9x13-in. glass baking dishes).
  6. Add the pasta to the cheese sauce with 2 /3 of the crisp bacon bits and 2 /3 of the thyme and toss well to coat.Transfer to prepared hotel pan. Sprinkle remaining cheese, thyme and bacon over the top. Bake casserole until heated through and light golden, about 30 minutes.

Recipe from Executive Chef Eric Eisenberg, Swedish Medical Center, Seattle, WA.