Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Pasta with Asparagus - Delicious!

When my parents lived on the farm, my mother used to have an asparagus bed that produced a huge crop every spring, which she generously shared with me, so I have quite a collection of asparagus recipes. This is the one that I pull out most often when the those pretty green spears find their way into my grocery cart this time of year.

The recipe is flexible - you can add or subtract ingredients to suit your taste or what you have on hand. The original recipe called for lots of butter, but I've cut back on it, and I think it tastes just fine this way. You could even use all olive oil, to make it heart healthier. Check out the Recipe Notes for some other options and variations.

 Pasta with Asparagus

1 pound fusilli or linguine pasta
3 T. butter
1 T. olive oil
4 oz. ham, cut in small pieces
1 ½ pounds fresh asparagus
1 small onion, sliced
1 small garlic clove, minced
½ c. roasted red peppers, chopped
¼ tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
2 T. chopped fresh parsley or 1 ½ tsp. dried parsley
½ c. grated Parmesan cheese + extra for serving

1. Break off tough ends of asparagus, and slice the stalks diagonally into 1” pieces. Prepare the ham, onion, garlic, red peppers.
2. Cook pasta according to package directions.
3. Sauté the ham pieces in a large skillet just until they start to brown a bit, about 2 minutes. Remove from skillet and set aside.
4. Melt the butter in the skillet, along with the olive oil. Add the asparagus and onions. Sauté for about 5 minutes or until crisp tender.
5. Add the garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes.
6. Add chopped red peppers, salt, pepper and parsley. Cover and cook for 3 minutes or until asparagus is tender.
7. Add pasta and toss all together. Add the ½ cup Parmesan cheese and lightly toss. Serve with extra Parmesan sprinkled on top.

Recipe Notes:
- The recipe originally called for linguine pasta. Since I have to eat a gluten free diet and I haven't found GF linguine yet, I use gluten free Tinkyada Brown Rice Fusilli, which is pictured above.
- Fresh red sweet peppers may be used instead of roasted red peppers from a jar. Chop the peppers and saute them with the asparagus and onions.
- Fresh spinach is a nice addition. Chop it lightly and add it in step 6.
- I keep the ham to a minimum in this dish - it's mainly just an accent - but you could double the amount for a meatier dish.
- If you love garlic, you'll definitely want to add an extra clove to intensify the flavor.
- A sprinkle of red pepper flakes will really add some zing!

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