An excellent pasta dish dressed with an asparagus sauce from Julia Della Croce’s cookbook, Umbria. I made it this last spring, it was excellent. It’s worth tracking down really fresh, locally grown asparagus. We get ours from our farmer’s market and I highly recommend doing so. The results of using the freshest you can find really does make the difference as does using the best EVOO you can get your hands on. Now’s the time for the good stuff.
Makes 4 Servings
1 lb. thin asparagus
5 quarts of water
2 Tbsp. coarse salt
6 Tbsp. EVOO + several Tbsp. to finish pasta
1 large bunch of wild scallions, or 4 bunches of cultivated scallions, thinly sliced, including 3” of the green tops.
A generous pinch red pepper flakes
1 lb. pennette (short penne) or other small pasta such as orecchiette, gemelli or a similar tubular pasta
Prepare the Sauce:
Trim off the tough ends of the asparagus (or snap them off). Cut on the diagonal into 2” pieces.
Bring the water to a rapid boil, stir in the salt; add the asparagus cooking for up to 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a skillet large enough to accommodate the pasta later, warm the 6 Tbsp. EVOO over medium heat, stir in the scallions and red pepper flakes. Using a wire skimmer or a sieve, scoop out all the asparagus pieces adding them to the skillet with the scallions. Do not discard the water. Toss the ingredients together sautéeing until the asparagus pieces are sweet and tender, 1 – 2 minutes. They must not be crunchy. Remove the skillet from the heat.
In the meantime, return the pot of water to the boil and stir in the pasta. Cook until al dente. The timing will depend upon the type of pasta used. Drain the pasta, adding it to the hot skillet with the asparagus and scallions. Toss well and check for salt. Pour in several tablespoons of EVOO, toss again and transfer to a warmed large, shallow bowl. Serve immediately.
Julia della Croce’s Note: no grated cheese tops the pasta at the table if the asparagus are fresh & tasty. It’s better to add more flavour with good raw olive oil and even a pinch more red pepper flakes at the end than to detract from the asparagus by introducing cheese.
Note: Italians like their veggies more cooked than we do, so adjust the cooking time of the asparagus to suit your taste if you like.