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Pasta with asparagus in a juicy way

by Gogo on May 5, 2010

in Carbs,EatIstria Recipes

Foraging for wild asparagus near Nature Park Cape Kamenjak was a great fun, but now it’s worth to think of what can be made with these gentle vegetables apart a simple omlette or a more elaborate risotto.

Pasta? Sure, but I want a juicy and creamy dish, with full taste of asparagus. To make it a real challenge I want to use one of my favorite pasta – bigoli – fat Venetian spaghetti with a rough surface that tend to absorb a lot of sauce (if you cannot find bigoli, choose some thicker spaghetti instead). So, we need a lot of sauce, you got the message!

Bigoli is great pasta, but it needs a lot of sauce

Bigoli is great pasta, but it needs a lot of sauce

The creaminess is easy to achieve with risotto. Take rice of good quality (arborio or vialone nano), a good vegetable stock, excellent extravirgin olive oil and a lot of patience, and you will easily get asparagus risotto with a nice creamy texture even without adding any milk cream or butter – the starch from rice does its job.

With pasta thing get more complicated if you want to avoid these two ingredients. No, I’m not a strict traditionalist that discards them just because they are never used in Istrian cuisine, or because I joined a Weight Watchers program. Here cream, and in a lesser extend butter, would just overwhelm subtle vegetable taste of asparagus and make the dish unnecessarily heavy and less digestible.

The trick is to use the stalks to make a thick soup that will give us a lot of juice. Here are the details.

Wild and cultivated green asparagus

Wild and cultivated green asparagus

I had both wild and cultivated green asparagus. The wild ones have stronger taste while the cultivated ones we will basically use for the soup. You might have only the cultivated ones, but this is also fine, only the taste of the sauce will be less intense. Chop by hand soft and tender shoots of both species in 2-3 cm long pieces and put them aside.

Peel the remaining woody stalks of the cultivated asparagus (this is an important step!) and chop it in 1 cm pieces. Chop also the stalks of the wild asparagus but throw away very fibrous stalks that can not be easily chopped by hand. Put these stalks in o.3 L of vegetable stock and cook for 10-15 min. Blend the soup and return it to the heat until it get thick like some good cream.

Woody stalks are for the soup, tender green shoots are fried with onions

Woody stalks are for the soup, tender green shoots are fried with onions

While the soup is cooking, fry finely chopped onions in some good extravirgin olive oil for 2-3 minutes. Toss in the tender shoots and fry for another 5-10 minutes on low heat, constantly mixing the veggies in the pan. Pour few spoons of vegetable stock if the water evaporates. Do not overcook the asparagus, they need to remain al dente. The same is true also for bigoli that needs to be boiled separately in a lot of salty water.

Add the bigoli in the pan with asparagus, mix everything. At the end, pour the warm soup inside until you get the right level of creaminess/juiciness. Do not exaggerate, we want a good pasta, not a soup. Return to low heat and cook for another minute until everything is nicely unified.

Shock your guests by serving steaming hot pasta directly in the pan. Some good Parmigiano Reggiano grated over and few turns of pepper mill will give that final touch.

PS: Please let me know if also in your kitchen asparagus pasta finally won the battle over asparagus risotto.

What's better - asparagus with pasta or rice?

What's better - asparagus with pasta or rice?

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Clem May 6, 2010 at 09:33

Wow, I would never have thought of adding stock in pasta… A real stroke of cooking genius!

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LadySu May 6, 2010 at 19:52

I have to try it! I’m aditected to rissoto with asparagus 😉 but I should try pasta on that way too!!! Thanks GOGO, I love your blog! Bissssssssss

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BK - hranavino.com May 9, 2011 at 23:24

Wow, fantastična ideja – inače ne preferiram previše koristiti vrhnje radi svog uniformiranog okusa, a ovo mi djeluje kao odličan način za dobar šug prirodnijeg okusa.

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