So delicious it might become an all-time favorite – A big claim I’ll stand by!
.When we moved to the farm there was not a single plant that was there for simple enjoyment; only edible things like rhubarb, asparagus, horseradish and crops. In the past it was a dairy farm with apple orchards and berry bushes and the family had a small fruit stand. By the time we got here there were few apples and no berries left. We had a professional landscaper design and plant more ornamental things to help reduce the wind effects and add aesthetic beauty. That was twenty years ago yet we are still making discoveries – the beautiful crab apple tree that produces real crab apples (a rare find indeed!) and a red currant growth in a dark little valley of old trees and underground springs. This asparagus was gathered from plants that were here for years before we were. We built a stone wall along the road, undoubtedly killing part of the patch, yet there are about a dozen plants that bring forth these tasty shoots every Spring. I harvest enough to play around with new recipes. One of the best recipes for bringing out the full asparagus flavors is this Lemony Asparagus Pasta. It’s an easy recipe that also tastes much richer and more fattening than it actually is. We were surprised that a rich sauce is created from the often discarded stems and the liquid from cooking the pasta. You’ll just have to try this and see if you don’t agree. It’s really good! Look at this beautiful fresh picked asparagus:
This is a simple dish, similar to Beans and Greens. You may have most of the ingredients in your pantry. The pasta you use is important. The Italians knew what they were doing when creating pasta shapes. I always thought it was random, but different pasta noodle shapes are designed to hold certain sauces. Strands are perfect for tomato sauces and for coating with a creamy sauce like alfredo. When you see pasta with little ridges or twists, those are meant to give the sauce something to “hold” onto. Cool, isn’t it? So for this pasta dish a pretty little pasta shape that twists, called “gemelli”, is perfect. If you can’t find gemelli you can try campanelle, penne, farfelle or some other shape that will hold this amazing sauce.
Asparagus: fresh, at least 1/2 pound
Olive oil: extra virgin 1/3 cup
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
Sea salt: 1 Tablespoon to put in the boiling water
Gemelli Pasta: 1 pound (I use gluten-free)
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, plus extra to sprinkle on top
1 cup of reserved pasta water
Sea Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Food Processor or blender (it is essential for making a creamy sauce-love my mini-blender)
Cut tips of asparagus off and set aside. Cut remainder of asparagus stalks, throwing away the fibrous ends that are too hard to cook. A good technique for this is to hold the asparagus near the base and bend to snap off the delicate edible part from the woody base. Boil a quart of salted water and add cut up stalk (not the tips), cooking for about 3 minutes until tender. Then carefully remove them from water (don’t throw water away) and place them in a blender, adding the grated lemon peel and olive oil. Let this set for a couple of minutes while you take the tip ends of the asparagus and boil them in the same water for about 3 minutes or less until they are bright green and tender. Remove from the water(again do not discard water) and immediately run the tips under cold water to stop them from further cooking. Set them aside. Now back to the blender:
Don’t underestimate the power in this process. It’s hard to imagine that this could make such a rich, creamy sauce..but watch. 🙂
Bring the water that the asparagus was cooked in back to a full boil and add the pasta, cooking until it is al dente (to the tooth), following directions on package. Before you drain the cooked pasta remove 1 cup of the pasta water and set aside to add back into the sauce. Don’t forget this, it’s full of tasty asparagus flavors.
Put pasta back in the empty sauce pan, add the asparagus tips, stir in the blended sauce, add in the parmesan cheese and enough of the spare pasta water to make a nice creamy pot of pasta. Serve in individual bowls sprinkled with Parmesan, salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
You can see that I added some slivered smoked ham to this dish. It doesn’t need ham or any other meat, but we were serving this as the main dish tonight and the ham added a bit of protein.