The English asparagus season is short so we like to make the most of it while we can. We don’t have any in the Zanzaneet Kitchen garden (apparently it’s not all that easy to grow and it takes up a lot of space) but we do know a nearby farm that lets you pick your own, so that’s where we head if we fancy some really fresh asparagus when the late Spring sun is shining. There’s lots you can do with asparagus but this quick pasta dish is perfect for a light lunch.
This is not a fancy dish. When an ingredient is this good it really doesn’t need messing about with.
Asparagus is a peculiar plant, it grows in sandy somewhat saline soil. It’s harvested as the spears emerge from the soil before any foliage is seen.
Picking asparagus is just a matter of choosing a juicy-looking spear and cutting it just above the soil with a sharp knife. It’s a rare privilege to pick your own and the taste of asparagus this fresh is amazing.
Spaghetti with asparagusCourse: MainCuisine: ItalianDifficulty: Easy
200g bunch of fresh asparagus
200g dry spaghetti
Olive oil for shallow frying
1 clove of garlic peeled and finely chopped
12 cherry tomatoes chopped into quarters
A handful of fresh basil leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
20-30g grated Pecorino Romano cheese (or Parmesan)
- First give the asparagus a good rinse. Then remove the woody base of each stem and chop into 4-5 cm long pieces.
- Boil the pasta in a large saucepan of water until ‘al dente’ – just cooked but retaining a bit of ‘bite’.
- Whilst the pasta is cooking heat the olive oil in a non-stick pan over a medium heat. When the oil is hot fry the garlic until soft but not brown.
- Add the chopped asparagus to the pan with the garlic and stir fry until cooked. Normally this takes 2-3 minutes depending on the thickness of the stems. Try not to overcook it so that it remains a little crisp and keeps its subtle flavour.
- Add the cherry tomatoes to the pan a minute or two before the asparagus is cooked so that they soften and warm through without breaking apart completely.
- Strain the pasta and add it to the pan, then stir everything together, add salt to taste and a generous twist of black pepper.
- Serve in warm bowls, sprinkle with grated pecorino (or parmesan) and drizzle with olive oil.
- Asparagus is often grown in sandy soil so you may find some grit in the tips if you don’t wash it thoroughly. We chop our asparagus and then wash it in a large bowl of cold water. If you can feel grit in the bottom of the bowl rinse and repeat. Gritty asparagus will spoil this dish.
- Don’t slavishly follow the timings given on pasta packets. If you like it really ‘al dente’ then you might find that it’s overcooked at the end of the recommended time.