Asparagus With Pesto Fettuccine
I was recently shown a cool technique for cooking asparagus. It involves blanching asparagus and then peeling them lengthwise using a thick vegetable peeler. They essentially become asparagus fettuccine and when tossed with real fettuccine turn into a mound of colorful pasta. To make it really sing spring, coat the fettuccine-asparagus in a pesto sauce. Freeze excess pesto in ice cube trays. When it’s pesto night, I pull two cubes from the freezer, add them to some pasta water in a pan, and we’ve got dinner.
For the pesto:
¼ cup pine nuts
1 cup packed basil leaves (about 2 large bunches)
¼ cup packed parsley leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup packed grated Parmesan
For the pasta:
½ pound asparagus
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 shallot, peeled and minced
2/3 cup pesto (recipe above)
12 ounces fresh fettuccine
1. Make the pesto: In a small skillet, toast the pine nuts, shaking the pan occasionally, over medium-low heat until golden brown. Let cool slightly.
2. In a food processor, puree the pine nuts until finely ground. Add the basil, parsley and a large pinch each of salt and pepper and puree until chopped as finely as possible. With the processor running, drizzle the olive oil in a slow and steady stream. Fold in the Parmesan and season to taste with more salt and pepper. Freeze excess pesto in ice cube trays. Once frozen, store the cubes in a freezer bag.
3. Prepare the pasta: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add enough salt so that it tastes salty.
4. Prepare an ice water bath. Drop the asparagus in the boiling water for 1 minute and immediately transfer to the ice bath. When cool, peel the asparagus lengthwise with a thick vegetable peeler. Bring the water back to the boil for the pasta.
5. In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil. When hot, add the shallot and sauté until translucent. Add 2/3 cup of the pesto, the asparagus strips, and ¾ cup of the boiling pasta water and bring to a simmer. Let the sauce reduce, then add a little more water, and let it reduce again. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Turn off the heat.
6. Drop the fettuccine into the boiling water and cook to al dente. Using a spider or pasta spoon, transfer it to the pan holding the pesto sauce. Place over high heat, add a little pasta water as need to loosen the sauce, and toss to combine. Serve in warm pasta bowls. Makes ¾ cup pesto. Serves 4. –Jill Santopietro for The Boston Globe.