Pasta in Primavera with Asparagus

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Pasta Primavera means “pasta in the springtime”. Its more about what you have on hand, than it is about being tied to a recipe. If you are just getting home from work, put the tomatoes in the oven, then go change your clothes, walk the dog etc. When you come back into the kitchen it will already smell good and you’ll be in the mood to make dinner.



Pasta with Asparagus and Roasted Tomatoes (1)
  

According to that ever-flowing fount of knowledge, also
known as Wikipedia, Pasta Primavera is an American-Italian pasta dish invented
in 1974 by Sirio Maccioni of Le Cirque fame.

I beg to differ.

Pasta Primavera means “pasta in the springtime”, which means
vegetables and pasta, and I’m dead certain people have been combining pasta and
vegetables since way before Mr. Maccioni was a glimmer in his babo’s eye.  It’s a natural combination this time of
year when after a winter of eating roots we can now eat the stuff that grows
above ground.

We happened to pick up some gorgeous asparagus in the market
this morning, and I had some tomatoes that needed to be eaten, and that’s how
our version of “Pasta in Primavera” came to be. Like the carbonara recipe from
the other day, its more about the technique and what you have on hand, than it
is about being tied to a recipe.

I was wishing we had some spring onions to go with our
lunch, but it was just tomatoes and asparagus. 

This is a delicately flavored pasta dish, so the trick here
is to concentrate the flavors of the asparagus and tomatoes so that each bite
gives you a nice crunchy burst of flavor.

 

Pasta in Primavera con Asparagi and Pomodori Arrosto or

Springtime Pasta with Asparagus and Roasted Tomatoes
Pasta in Primavera

For 2

 

8 small tomatoes

2-3 hefty garlic cloves (not the skinny cloves that are in
the middle of the head)

1 bunch of crispy fresh asparagus

1 hunk of cheese, like a ricotta salata, or something soft
and white and easily meltable

1 more clove of garlic

salt, pepper, olive oil

grated lemon peel

 

Soft, wide, noodle pasta like fettuccine

 

Slice the tomatoes in half, and place in an ovenproof dish,
sprinkle with a bit of salt and a drizzle of olive oil. Add the 2 large,
unpeeled garlic cloves to the dish, and give them a little coating of oil.
Place in the oven and roast at 325F/165C for about 20 minutes. If you are just
getting home from work, put the tomatoes in the oven, then go change your
clothes, walk the dog etc. When you come back into the kitchen it will already smell
good and you’ll be in the mood to make dinner.

 

Wash your asparagus, then in one swift, humane motion, cut
their heads off.  It’s the same as
cutting the tips off, but say you’ve had a bad day at work; it’s so satisfying
to just whop the head off of something. Set the tips or heads aside, and then
chop the asparagus stems into ¼ to ½” slices. No, put the ruler back in the drawer;
just chop into small, bite size pieces.

 

Grate the cheese into a bowl and set aside. If you can’t
find ricotta salata, use something else mild and young or you could even use
parmigiana if that’s what you have in the house.

Put the pasta water on to boil. Put another small pot of
water onto boil because you are going to blanch and shock the asparagus.
Unlike “Shock and Awe”, this actually works. The asparagus will turn a bright,
beautiful green and stay that way.

As the little pot of water comes to a boil, add a bit of
salt and toss in the asparagus tips, let the water come back to a boil, remove the
tips and run cold water over them. Set aside. Do the same thing with the
chopped asparagus stems (boil for a moment, drain, run cold water over the bits, drain again).
Eating Pasta (1)

 

In a pan large enough to hold the pasta, add a few
tablespoons of olive and the last clove of garlic only this time peel it and crack with your hand. (Lay the garlic clove on the cutting board, press down hard and fast with the heel of your hand, wait to feel the satisfying crack.) When the garlic
clove starts to sizzle in the pan, add the asparagus tips and gently sauté for 2-3
minutes. Remove and keep warm (that just means put them in the oven with the
roasted tomatoes).  By now, the
pasta water has boiled, you are cooking your  pasta and its about 2 minutes away from being  done.

Sauté the chopped asparagus, just like you did with the
tips, only leave them in the pan. Take a small ladle full of the pasta water
and add it to the chopped asparagus.

Drain the pasta and add it to the asparagus, and add the cheese. Remove the roasted garlic from the tomatoes, slip the skins
off and mush the soft garlic into the pasta. Now toss everything together.

Arrange the tips on a plate, add the pasta, and decorate the
dish with the roasted tomatoes, pouring any extra tomato juice onto the pasta.
Grate a little lemon peel over the whole thing. Stand back; admire your design,
add a few grinds of fresh pepper and then eat!

Pasta in the springtime!

 

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