Asparagus with Pasta
Every once in a while my wife asks me to make something she has a desire for and Sunday night it was penne pasta with asparagus which we just happen to have in the refrigerator. The asparagus was the young, thin stalks that are so tender and delicious.
So I did a little research on the Internet for several variations of this dish and came up with the following. This is a simple, easy to prepare meal that is perfect any time of the year but especially now when produce is at its best locally.
I cut the recipe down by half since it was just the two of us eating the sauce and there was some leftover. I did cook a pound of pasta because my two little girls dined on penne with butter and some freshly grated Parmesan cheese, one of their favorite gourmet sauces.
Penne Pasta with Asparagus Recipe
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 bunch of asparagus - ends trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
2 medium onions - chopped
4 large garlic cloves - finely minced
2 (14-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
1-tablespoon fresh basil 1 tablespoon fresh tarragon
1/2 tablespoon fresh oregano
1/2 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese - with additional cheese to garnish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper - to taste
1-pound penne pasta
¼ cup pine nuts - toasted
How To Prepare At Home
Prep: Start by heating up a large pot of water to cook the pasta. Trim the ends of the asparagus and then cut each stalk into ½ inch pieces. Chop the onions finely and mince the garlic. Fine chop the basil, tarragon & oregano. Grate your Parmesan cheese or have it standing by in a cheese grater.
Cook: When the water comes to a boil, add some salt and then the pasta and cook to al dente. If you have done all the prepping while the water comes to a boil, the sauce should be done about the same time the pasta takes to cook.
It is better to have the pasta undercooked since you will be finishing it off in the sauce but try not to overcook the pasta so it loses its crispness.
While the pasta is cooking, heat up a large sized sauté pan or fry pan over medium-high heat. You could also cook this in a large saucepan.
Add the butter and oil and when hot, add the asparagus and sauté for about 3 minutes. Remove the asparagus from the pan and keep warm.
Add the onions, garlic & a little more olive oil if needed to the pan and sauté until the onions become translucent & golden in color, about 8 - 10 minutes. Now add the diced tomatoes with juice, basil, tarragon, oregano and season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.
At this point, I like to take about ¼ cup of the water the pasta has been cooking in and add it to the sauce. Let the sauce come to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium and let the sauce simmer until it thickens about 8 minutes.
Add the asparagus back to the pan and cook until tender but still crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the pasta to the pan, along with the grated Parmesan and toss gently. Taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. If you like it a little spicier, you can always add a shake from the hot red pepper flakes in the back of your spice cabinet. Be careful, a little goes a long way.
Serve family style in one big bowl or individually plate the pasta and have some extra grated Parmesan cheese on hand.
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