SPAGHETTI WITH (WILD) ASPARAGUS
Foraging is all the rage nowadays, but Italians have never stopped these sort of primitive habits.
My father has never made a walk for the sake of it in his entire life. He actually drives to my aunt’s house 300 mt away. For a bunch of wild asparagus however, at 77 he still challenges the Umbrian slopes and the occasional viper. Viper? If you thought we had a quiet life up in the Assisi hills, read my friend Rebecca’s story about picking wild asparagus.
Tasting wild asparagus is a life changing experience and per se enough of a motivation to come to Italy in the spring. These fragrant strips of green are in the league of foods for the gods, like truffle or aged balsamic.
As all things intensely aromatic they need minimal manipulation and condiments. If you don’t have wild asparagus, take thin green cultivated asparagus. Just remember that your asparagus should still be green when you eat them. Please don’t overcook them to brown sadness. In order to succeed with this very simple recipe you need really fresh asparagus, fruity extra virgin olive oil and freshly grated Parmesan.
- 100 gr /3 oz wild asparagus or 300 gr /10 oz cultivated ones, cleaned and washed
- 1 large garlic clove, very finely chopped
- 1 small chili pepper, thinly sliced
- 3-4 tablespoons EVO oil
- 2-3 tablespoon grated parmesan
- 350 gr /12 oz spaghetti
a) If using cultivated asparagus grill them in a little olive oil, infuse with garlic and chop as explained for risotto . Transfer them in a pan large enough to hold all the pasta you are cooking.
b) If using wild asparagus cut them in 2 cm/ 1 inch long pieces. In the above large pan, saute the garlic in 2 tablespoon olive oil until fragrant, about 30 sec. Add the asparagus and cover with water. Increase heat to high and cook stirring occasionally, about 6 or 7 min. By the time the water has boiled away the asparagus will be soft but still bright green.
At this point you have garlic infused asparagus, add the sliced chili pepper, cover and reserve.
To cook and sauce the spaghetti to perfection, please follow this method carefully:
While the asparagus are cooking, bring a 5 liter/ 5 quart pan of water to the boil. Add two heaping tablespoons of salt and bring to the boil again. The water has to be plenty and as salty as the sea otherwise the pasta will be bland.
Cook good quality spaghetti according to package instructions until just al dente. Drain and reserve at least 1/4 cup of the pasta water.
Transfer the pasta in the pan which holds the asparagus and turn the heat on high. Stir quickly and when the sauce is blended into the pasta add the cheese and half of the reserved cooking water. Stir again. The hot water will melt the cheese and will bind the condiment so that all the flavor will be absorbed into the pasta.Use more water if the pasta looks too dry. You can also add a couple of tablespoon of cream. Drizzle with one or two additional tablespoons of olive oil.
Now run to the table and eat it immediately, wonderfully moist, fragrant and let me say it, beautiful.