Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Asparagus Time

Not sure if it's true where you live, but here asparagus are in season. The spears coming into the markets are just the right size...not too thin and not to fat, with nice tight buds and beautiful green color.

One of my favorite ways to enjoy asparagus is to just steam them and eat them plain, but occasionally I like to do a fancier rendition. This pasta and asparagus dish is my go-to for those times. The only down side is I use three pots before I'm finished, but the final dish is so good, with tender pasta, garlic infused bite sized pieces of asparagus, and a delicious cheese sauce with the added zing of lemon zest. A large portion would make a fine vegetarian (or vegan the way I do it) meal by itself, or you can pair it with simple grilled fish or chicken as we did. Sweetie makes the best grilled salmon and steelhead.

You start by putting some water on to boil. Then you prepare the asparagus by snapping the ends off , then cutting them into bite sized pieces. They go into a small pot with minced garlic and some olive oil and then cook over low heat which allows the asparagus to become infused with the garlic while still retaining firmness and their green color. Don't forget to stir them occasionally so that all the pieces become soaked in the garlic oil.

While the asparagus are stewing you add  pasta to the boiling water. The pasta cooks while the veg and garlic do their magic. (If you use fresh pasta, you'll need to do this when the asparagus are almost finished cooking and after you've made the cheese sauce so that the pasta doesn't overcook. The asparagus take about 15 minutes.)

The cheese sauce is made in the third pot, using ricotta cheese, hot pasta water, salt, pepper, a dash of nutmeg, and the zest of one lemon. Over low heat the water is stirred into the cheese to make a creamy sauce. With most ricotta it will still be a little bit grainy, but that's fine. If you are going for vegetarian, you can add a few tablespoons of grated Parmesan, too. For my vegan version I skipped the parmesan and used an almond milk based 'ricotta'. My favorite brand is Kite Hill.

Now you have all of the parts. Once the asparagus are tender and the pasta is al dente tender, you drain the pasta, immediately mix it with the cheese sauce, and plate the sauced pasta, then top it with the garlicy asparagus pieces. For those using Parmesan, you can sprinkle another tablespoon of parmesan on top and serve it up!

Pasta with Ricotta  and Asparagus

a variation of a recipe in the Mediterranean Diet Cookbook
serves 4 - 6

3/4 lb tender young asparagus ( or 1/2 lb asparagus and 1/4 lb broccoli crown)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh mint, minced - optional
1 lb pasta of your choice - I used fusilli  (For vegan version use pasta made without animal products)
6 quarts water
1/2 lb fresh creamy ricotta (For a vegan version, I used Kite Hill almond milk ricotta)
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste 
dash nutmeg
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (Omit for vegan version)

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and add 2 teaspoons salt.

Trim tough ends off asparagus after rinsing them. Cut tender parts into 2-inch lengths. Cut broccoli crown into small florets, if using.

In a sauté pan, over low heat and covered, gently stew the garlic, asparagus (and broccoli) in the oil until the vegetables are tender but not brown, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in mint if using. Set aside.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in boiling water until tender. While pasta cooks, extract 1/2 - 3/4 cup of the cooking liquid and mix it in a small saucepan with the ricotta. Set saucepan over low heat and gently cream the ricotta and cooking water. When the ricotta is warm, taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Add the nutmeg, lemon zest, and 1 tablespoon of the Parmesan cheese, if using, and stir to combine.

Drain the cooked pasta and combine immediately with the cheese sauce, tossing to mix well. Arrange over a warm platter and pour asparagus mixture over the top, being sure to scrape all of the cooked garlic onto the pasta and veggies. Sprinkle with the rest of the grated cheese (optional) and serve at once.


  1. I really wish I could like asparagus. My entire family would be all over this, but me - nope.

    Also, in case the little box didn't arrive with a name, it's for the gent with the owie (and you, of course).

  2. Tanita, I do wish you could like asparagus, too. Maybe pass the link on to your family?
    We were wondering who the delightful eggs were from, but no name. Thanks for thinking of us, for the no-dairy, and for our kind thoughts for Sweetie. He is doing much better, drinking lots of water and resting a bit more, too. Blood pressure is just where it should be. We are saving the eggs for tomorrow. Happy Easter to both of you!

  3. Meant YOUR kind thoughts. Sweetie really appreciates them!