Hi Everyone! Wow, it has been a whirlwind month and I am happy to be back with you again. Didn’t all my wonderful guest bloggers do a terrific job! They each shared beautiful recipes and stories. I hope you all enjoyed their postings as much as I did and had fun discovering some new fabulous writers.
Today I am sharing a new recipe with you, a combination of some of the best ingredients in the world. It always makes me smile to see the beautiful fresh vegetables show up at the markets in the spring and asparagus is my absolute favorite. There are so many different ways to use it … as a starter, a side dish or as part of a variety of main courses. If you happened to buy a little too much for Easter or Passover and have leftovers, this is the dish for you.
Whenever possible, The Artist will choose pasta as his meal of choice, and he is always thrilled when he hears that is what I am making for dinner. This combination of Italian ingredients is one of our favorites but I’ve never gotten around to writing the recipe down. Isn’t that always the way it goes – you make something terrific and then have trouble remembering how to recreate it. This time I got it down just for you!
In addition to the asparagus, I had some prosciutto on hand so I tossed it in too. I love the salty richness it adds to dishes. If you don’t have it, you can substitute bacon or ham or leave it out entirely. If you do that, make sure you bump up the salt to compensate.
If you are lucky enough to have access to Meyer lemons, you can absolutely use them in this. Because they have a gentler flavor, you may want to increase the amount of zest. Taste the sauce and see if you think it needs a bit more. And make sure you use a Microplane grater for the most delicate zest possible!
If you are watching your fat calories and want to try for a lighter version, you can replace the heavy cream with low-fat evaporated milk. It saves you calories and still gives a similar consistency and mouthfeel as the cream. Add an extra tablespoon of butter and you’ll barely know the difference!
While The Artist prefers penne, you can use any pasta shape that you and your family like. Ziti, Rotelle, Cavatappi, or Gomito are all great choices. You want something that is firm enough to hold up to the sauce and about the same size as the pieces of asparagus. When everything is a similar size, it is much easier to eat – especially for children.
I hope you are having a great week. These rainy April days give us the promise of beautiful weather that is right around the corner. I can’t wait for the warmth of May and the bright flowers that are arriving soon!
Have a wonderful day!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
If tender baby asparagus hasn’t arrived yet and you can only find really thick spears, that is fine. Lay them flat on a work surface and shave off some of the tougher exterior with a vegetable peeler. You will be left with perfectly tender stalks that caramelize beautifully in the oven.
Penne with Asparagus and Prosciutto in Lemon Cream Sauce
Jane Evans Bonacci – The Heritage Cook © 2012
Yield: 4 servings
1 lb fresh asparagus, tough ends trimmed and discarded
1 shallot, peeled and thickly sliced
About 8 oz thinly sliced prosciutto
1 tbsp organic olive oil
1 lb penne or other similar pasta
Lemon Cream Sauce
1 cup heavy cream
1 clove garlic, peeled and cut in half
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp finely grated fresh lemon zest
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, divided
3 tbsp finely chopped fresh Italian parsley or chives
Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut asparagus spears into bite-sized pieces. Combine with the shallot and prosciutto; place on a baking sheet and toss with olive oil. Transfer to oven and roast until nearly tender, about 10 to 12 minutes. Timing will depend on the thickness of spears. Remove from oven and set aside.
While asparagus is roasting, bring a large stockpot of water to a boil over high heat and add 2 tbsp kosher salt. Water should taste salty in order to give flavor to pasta completely. Cook pasta until just barely al dente. Reserve 2 cups of the cooking water and drain the pasta.
While pasta is cooking, split peeled garlic clove in half and discard any sprouted green center if present. In a large skillet, combine the cream, garlic, butter, lemon juice, and zest. Warm over medium heat until butter melts, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and remove the garlic pieces; discard garlic. Taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.
Whisk 1/2 cup of the cheese into the sauce until smooth. Add the cooked pasta and stir to coat thoroughly. Cook over medium heat for about 3 more minutes or until pasta is cooked through. Stir in the roasted asparagus, shallots and prosciutto, tossing to combine and cook another minute to warm it through. Add a little of the cooking water at a time, if needed, to get the sauce to your desired consistency.
Transfer to serving platter, sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup of cheese and parsley or chives. Serve immediately.
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