Just about every where I look these days I see fresh asparagus and I have been itching to use some. Now that spring is in full bloom here and we have had some pretty high temperatures, my allergies have knocked me flat on my back – literally, but the thought of using some fresh asparagus has kept my spirits high and my energy up.
The first time I had asparagus in a pasta dish was in 1998. My husband and I spent a weekend in Tuscany with friends. In Vinci to be exact, the birth place of Leonardo Da Vinci and in addition to the beauty of the town and surrounding countryside, we discovered a fabulous restaurant called La Limonaia.
The thing I remember most about it is the lemon trees in the garden. There were so many of them and they were so beautiful. We liked the restaurant so much that we ate there two nights in a row and I ordered the same pasta dish both nights.
I know we ate a lot more but this is the dish that stands out in my memory. Sometimes I wonder if it was really as good as I remember it to be, or if it was the circumstances and the company that makes it so memorable.
We still talk about that restaurant, we’ve even been back a few times and I still order this dish, but I now make it myself – or at least my version of it.
300 grams of fresh asparagus
320 grams of short pasta of your choice – I used mezze maniche (translation: half sleeves)
100 grams 35% cream
1 garlic clove
extra virgin olive oil
Steam the asparagus until tender.
I did this in the microwave by placing the asparagus on a large plate and pouring about 100 ml of water over the asparagus. I used a large mixing bowl to cover the plate and steamed the asparagus for 9 minutes at medium heat.
Cut away the woody ends. Cut off the tips and put aside. Take the remaining center sections and puree in food processor. I added the remaining water from steaming to help puree the asparagus better. This will give the sauce a rustic look and texture. If you want a smoother, more liquid sauce then consider using a hand blender or passing the sauce through a sieve.
Place the puree in a small pan with a clove of garlic and a small drizzle of olive oil. Heat the puree so that the liquid evaporates and it thickens a bit. Add the cream and stir until blended.
Keep heating it over very low heat. Don’t let the cream boil.
If it starts to bubble, turn off the heat, remove the garlic, add salt to taste and set aside.
In the mean time put a large stockpot full of water on to boil.
Once the water reaches a rolling boil, add salt and pasta.
Mezze maniche take any where between 10 to 12 minutes to cook al dente, depending on the brand you use.
Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and place it back in the pot. Add the cream and stir. Toss in the asparagus tips that you had put aside earlier and serve immediately.
Add grated parmigiano to taste.