2010 Herb of the Year: Pasta with Asparagus and Herbs

| February/March 2010

  • Photo by Rob Cardillo

Serves 6

Use whatever mushrooms are available, replace the red wine with white, or use all stock, and try different herbs. Italian parsley, chives, cress, marjoram, arugula or even small spinach leaves would be tasty in this dish. If you don’t have the time or inclination to make homemade pasta, you can substitute a good-quality dried noodle, such as creste di gallo, farfalle, fusilli or ziti.

• About 1½ pounds fresh asparagus
• 2 heads garlic
• 2½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
• Salt and freshly ground pepper
• About ½ pound fresh mushrooms, such as oyster, chanterelle, shiitake or regular button mushrooms
• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
• About ½ cup red wine
• 3⁄4 cup vegetable stock
• About 1½ pounds fresh pasta or 1 pound dried pasta
• ½ cup finely chopped dill, loosely packed
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
• ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
• Parmesan cheese, for garnish

1.Put a large pot of water on to boil for pasta. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Wash asparagus, break off the tough ends and reserve for another use.

2.Peel the lower halves of the asparagus and cut them into 1- to 11⁄2-inch lengths. Remove outer layers of garlic skin. Cut the heads in half crosswise. Place garlic cut-side up on 3 layers of foil. Drizzle with ½ tablespoon olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Wrap foil around garlic. Roast for 30 minutes, or until it gives when pressed.

3.When pasta water comes to a boil, add salt and blanch asparagus for 2 to 3 minutes, until crisp-tender. Remove asparagus with a slotted spoon, drain and reserve. Return the water to a boil to cook the pasta.

4.Using a mushroom brush or a damp paper towel, clean mushrooms. Slice or tear them into 1-inch pieces that are 1⁄4-inch-thick.

5.In a large nonreactive sauté pan, combine butter and remaining olive oil and heat over moderate heat. Sauté mushrooms, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Squeeze roasted garlic from its skin and add it to mushrooms; stir another minute. Add wine and stock, salt and pepper generously, and cook for about 3 minutes. Cover and remove from heat.

6.Cook pasta until it is al dente and drain. Add it to the pan of sautéed mushrooms over medium heat, along with the asparagus, herbs and Parmesan. Toss and taste for salt and pepper. Serve immediately in warm pasta plates and pass extra Parmesan.

Author Susan Belsinger uses herbs every day in and around her home and greenhouse. She and the International Herb Association are releasing a book on dill, the Herb of the Year for 2010.

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