Friday, November 12, 2004


I was craving a light pasta with a green vegetable; more specifically, I was craving asparagus. So I splurged and bought some, even though it’s out of season and $3.99 a pound at the grocery store. So as not to be totally extravagant, I decided to make a half-recipe so I’d only need one pound of asparagus. I’m regretting that decision a little this morning, with no nice asparagus leftovers to look forward to for lunch, but that’s how it goes in non-asparagus season.

This is a strong, simple recipe (probably from Pasta e Verdura, but I forgot to check) that brings together the tastes that go most naturally with asparagus: garlic, lemon, and parsley. It’s not hard to make, though it feels a little like you’re scrambling when you try to cook pasta, steam asparagus, and toast breadcrumbs at the same time. You can always separate these steps instead of trying to do them simultaneously (get the breadcrumbs toasted, then set them aside and start on the asparagus)—this is a forgiving recipe in which nothing needs to cook for very long. I was surprised by how quickly the food was ready last night; shockingly, we had finished eating dinner before prime time began.

2 pounds asparagus
1/3 cup fresh bread crumbs (I won’t lie; I sometimes use more)
½ cup olive oil, plus a little extra for toasting the breadcrumbs
4 medium cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup minced fresh parsley leaves
¼ cup fresh lemon juice (1-2 lemons)
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound spaghetti

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for cooking the pasta.

2. Meanwhile, heat a dab of olive oil (maybe a teaspoon?) over medium heat in a large skillet. When the oil is warm, add the breadcrumbs and stir them well until they absorb all the oil. Toast them, shaking the pan occasionally to stir them, until they are crisp and golden brown, about 5 minutes.

3. Wash the asparagus, then snap off and discard the tough ends. Cut off (but keep) the tips, then cut the stalks in half lengthwise and slice them into 1-inch pieces. Steam about 2 minutes, until crisp-tender. Remove from heat and set aside.

4. When the pasta water boils, add the spaghetti and cook until al dente.

5. While the pasta cooks, remove the toasted breadcrumbs from the skillet and set them aside. Add the ½ cup olive oil to the skillet and put it over medium heat. When the oil is warm, add the garlic and sauté until lightly colored, about 2 minutes. Add parsley, lemon juice, and salt to the pan and cook for 30 seconds, then add the asparagus and mix well.

6. Drain the pasta and add it to the skillet, toss everything together well, and dish it into bowls. Sprinkle toasted breadcrumbs over each serving and grind on some black pepper if desired. (The recipe doesn’t ask for that, but it cuts the tartness of the lemon very nicely. The recipe doesn’t ask for Parmesan cheese, either, and it does just fine without it, but if you happen to be a cheeseophile, a small sprinkling can be nice. I do this on occasion—last night being one of the occasions, because I was feeling celebratory.)

Serves: 6
Time: 30 minutes

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