Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Pasta with Asparagus, Mushrooms, and Tomatoes

Even here in the South, it's been a long cold winter. So when the spell finally broke the other day and temperatures hit the 80-degree mark, my appetite suddenly changed. I wanted to eat spring. 

Green, plump stalks of fresh asparagus are now heralding the markets. In this simple pasta dish, it takes center stage with earthy mushrooms, sweet grape tomatoes and lots of garlic. Nothing complicated. A simple but satisfying dish, as welcome as spring.

Feel free to adjust the garlic quantities to taste. Here, I used plain button mushrooms for their plump earthiness. Since this is meatless, use mushrooms that have some "tooth" in them.

  • 8 ounces fresh asparagus, trimmed of tough ends and then cut into thirds
  • 8 ounces grape tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 4 ounces mushrooms, roughly sliced
  • 1/2 cup diced, sweet onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • Butter
  • Olive oil
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup fresh-grated Parmesan cheese or similar
  • Fresh lemon zest
  • Fish sauce (optional)
  • Corn starch (optional)
  • 8 ounces spaghetti

Bring a pot of salted water to the boil. Add a few slices from one of the reserved, two garlic cloves to add some added flavor to the pasta. Add spaghetti and cook until done.

Meanwhile ...

In a medium pan, melt a nob of butter along with some olive oil. Add the chopped onion. Cook for several minutes then add the asparagus and mushrooms. Cook several minutes more. Add a bit of chicken stock and the chopped garlic. Last, add the tomatoes and allow the mixture to simmer a bit. If you have it, add a shake or two of fish sauce. If the mixture appears too dry, add a bit more stock and, if you want it a bit thicker, a teaspoon or two of corn starch mixed with some of the stock. 

Keep the vegetables on the large side when cutting.

Remove pan from heat.

Drain spaghetti. Add a good drizzle of olive oil and a few tablespoons of butter. Salt and pepper to taste. Using a micro plane, zest in some fresh garlic and lemon zest. Toss. Taste and re-season if necessary. Mix in cheese. 

Serve pasta on the side of a plate with vegetable mixture overlapping a bit. Drizzle with the sauce. 

Hello, spring!