Oh, spring! It is no accident that many of the items we encounter at the farmers' markets are green—from salad greens to broccoli rabe to green garlic and leeks and so forth. And of course, asparagus. This is one of those eagerly awaited signifiers of spring, one of the items that no one can seem to get enough of at my farmers' market. Farmers grow it, but it takes a few years to establish and then once it does, it can take off like crazy. So asparagus, shall we say, requires some commitment.
It's a simple recipe, one that requires the dirtying of only a couple of dishes. The addition of lemon to anything with asparagus adds a brightness that pairs well with it. You'll notice this doesn't have a sauce; I simply added a little bit of pasta water, some cheese, some zest and juice of a lemon, and that's really all you need. A drizzle or two of lovely olive oil is a welcome addition; something buttery or grassy would work well.
Green garlic is simply just immature, young garlic that hasn't grown its bulb yet and possesses a milder flavor than full-grown garlic. But if you don't have it, never fear. You can swap it out with ramps (but use the leaves too), baby leeks or green onion/scallions. Anything in the allium family will do nicely. If my chives in the backyard had looked decent, I would have chopped some up and added them, too, for a little extra zip. (When green garlic goes out, you can use garlic scapes.)
- 12 ounces pasta, your choice
- Small bunch (3-4) green garlic, sliced thin
- 1-2 T. unsalted organic butter
- Bunch of asparagus, cut into 2-inch slices, on the bias
- Very good quality extra virgin olive oil
- Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
While the pasta is cooking, saute the green garlic in medium heat in a medium-sized saute pan until it begins to soften. This should take about 3-4 minutes.
Add the asparagus and cook until it turns bright green and becomes tender. Do not overcook asparagus—it's a sad state of affairs when that happens. Soggy asparagus is sad asparagus. Turn the heat off.
Drain the pasta, but reserve 1 cup or so of the pasta water first. Dump the pasta back into the pan you cooked it in, or, if your saute pan is deep enough, that one instead. Zest the lemon over top, squeeze the juice into the pan and toss. Salt and pepper is necessary. Taste, taste, taste. Add a little water if it seems like it needs a little liquid. Finally, grate some cheese over top.