I love to prepare seasonal dishes using local ingredients in my kitchen. Obviously, as we pass from one season to the next, our tastes change due to the weather and what ingredients are available to us. As much as I love a warm bowl of creamy polenta topped with meaty ragu, that is not a dish that I’d want to either prepare or eat during the warmer months. As the weather changes and the temperature rises, I turn to lighter fare using lots of vegetables and much less meat.
For me, Spring is crisp asparagus spears and tiny sweet spring peas. If I was in Italy, I’d be enjoying a variety of fresh artichokes and fava beans. Still, unfortunately those two vegetables just are not available to me here in Michigan. I also tend to eat a lot more salads as the warmer weather approaches. Although I still enjoy a bowl of soup, they are vegetable-based soups often served at room temperature. During the hottest days of summer, I try not to turn on my oven at all, and if we are craving meat or poultry, we use our outdoor grill to prepare our meals. We also tend to eat a lot of pasta dishes in place of meat as Spring moves into summer, and we top our pasta with vegetable-based sauces rather than hearty meat ones.
This easy pasta dish can be prepared very quickly, and it is both elegant and delicious. By cooking the asparagus just until it is tender-crisp and then plunging the spears into an ice water bath, you end up with bright green tender spears. A handful of fresh spinach leaves gives the sauce a fuller flavor and helps create a bright green color. You could use just about any pasta shape you like with this sauce, including both fresh and dried pasta. I tend to prefer Pecorino Romano cheese over Parmigiano Reggiano, but in this delicate sauce, Parmesan works best. To ensure the sauce is flavordful and not bland, season well.
Deborah Mele 2021
- 1 Bunch Fresh Asparagus, Trimmed Of Rough Ends
- 2 Handfuls Baby Spinach Leaves, About 1 1/2 Cups
- 2 Garlic Cloves, Peeled
- 1/2 Cup Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
- 1 Cup Pine Nuts
- 1/4 to 1/3 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Juice of 1/2 Lemon
- Salt & Pepper To Taste
- 3/4 Pound Dried Pasta
- Shaved Parmesan Cheese
- Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil.
- Cut the asparagus spears in three pieces.
- Lightly toast the pine nuts in a frying pan over medium heat stirring continually until just starting to brown.
- Set aside 1/4 cup of pine nuts and place the rest in a blender.
- Blanch the asparagus in the boiling salted water until tender crisp, about 2 to 3 minutes.
- Drain the spears and place in a bowl filled with ice water to cool.
- Once cool, drain and pat dry.
- Cut the tips (2-inches) off half the spears and set aside.
- Coarsely chop the rest of the asparagus and place in the blender.
- Add the spinach, garlic, Parmesan, and 3/4 cup pine nuts to the blender and pulse to mix.
- Continue to pulse the mixture while pouring in the olive oil a little at a time.
- Add the lemon juice, salt and pepper.
- Place the pesto in a bowl and set aside.
- Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.
- Cook the pasta according to package instructions, then drain, reserving a small cup of pasta water.
- Return the pasta to the pot, add the pesto and toss, adding a little pasta water if the sauce is too thick.
- Serve the pasta topped with reserved asparagus spears, pine nuts, and shaved Parmesan cheese.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 612Total Fat: 39gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 25gCholesterol: 32mgSodium: 836mgCarbohydrates: 48gFiber: 5gSugar: 10gProtein: 23g