Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Asparagus Penne

Asparagus season is still in full swing, so we have to take advantage while we can! Go to your local farmers market or supermarket and seek out a bunch of skinny asparagus stalks. Buy them. Bring them home. And make this meal.

Here we have a creamy pasta with almost no actual cream in it. It's the magic of flour, my friends, and making a pan gravy in lieu of a straight cream sauce. This is actually a very nutritious meal, in spite of its apparent decadence. Also, it's another choose-your-own-adventure dish when it comes to the herb. I used sage, just to keep things a bit interesting. Rachael recommends tarragon. I think thyme would also work nicely. My vote is that you keep at least two or three types of fresh herbs on hand at any given time, and that way you're bound to find one that will work in whatever dish you choose to make.

This meal comes together nice and fast, so definitely file this under the weeknight category.

Asparagus Penne
adapted from Rachael Ray's Big Orange Book
serves 3


1 bunch thin asparagus, trimmed
6 oz. whole wheat penne pasta
2 teaspoons EVOO
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large garlic clove, minced or pressed
1 tablespoon whole wheat flour
1/3 cup low sodium vegetable stock
1/2 cup skim milk
splash of heavy cream (about 1 tablespoon)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh sage, finely chopped (about 4 leaves)
juice of 1/2 lemon
grated parmesan for serving


1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add salt. Drop the asparagus in and cook for about 2 minutes, then remove, drain, and chop into 2-inch pieces. Add pasta to the hot water and cook to al dente, about 8-10 minutes.

2. While the pasta is cooking, heat the EVOO and butter in a large skillet over medium heat. When the butter has melted, add the garlic and cook gently for 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle the flour into the pan and cook for 1 minute, stirring.

3. Whisk in the stock, milk, cream, mustard, and lemon zest. Season with salt, pepper and sage, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until thickened. Add lemon juice, and gently toss the asparagus and pasta with the sauce to coat. Remove from heat and adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve with grated parmesan.

Simple and delicious. Enjoy!

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