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Seasons

Asparagus with pesto fettuccine

(John d. erickson)
June 25, 2008

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Serves 4

Sometimes I become so smitten by a dish that my husband is stuck eating it over and over while I perfect it. This season it's asparagus with pesto fettuccine, which started when I learned to use a thick vegetable peeler to pull lengthwise strips off the stalks of blanched asparagus. When you toss the asparagus strands, which resemble fettuccine, with some real fettuccine, the dish twirls into a colorful mound. To make it really green, add a little pesto sauce. You can freeze extra pesto in ice cube trays, and when it's pesto night - in our household that seems to be every night - pull out a few cubes, melt them in a little pasta cooking water, and you've got dinner. In the meantime, I need to find another dish before my guinea pig goes on strike.

PESTO

1/2 cup pine nuts
1 cup packed basil leaves (about 2 large bunches)
1/2 cup packed parsley leaves
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

1. In a small skillet, toast the pine nuts, shaking the pan occasionally, over medium-low heat until golden brown; cool slightly.

2. In a food processor, work the nuts until fine. Add the basil, parsley, and a large pinch each of salt and pepper. Puree until finely chopped. With the motor running, drizzle the olive oil through the feed tube in a slow, steady stream.

3. Fold in the Parmesan. Freeze remaining pesto in ice cube trays; once frozen, pop into a freezer bag.

FETTUCCINE

Salt, to taste
1/2 pound asparagus
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
2/3 cup pesto
12 ounces fresh fettuccine
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Have on hand a bowl of ice water. Drop the asparagus into the boiling water for 1 minute and immediately transfer to the ice water. When cool, use a thick vegetable peeler to peel the asparagus lengthwise.

2. Let the water return to a boil.

3. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the shallot and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Add the pesto, asparagus strips, and 3/4 cup of the pasta cooking water. Bring to a simmer and let the sauce reduce for a minute. Add a little more water and reduce again. Season with salt and pepper. Turn off the heat.

4. Drop the fettuccine into the boiling water and cook for a few minutes or until the pasta is tender but still has some bite. Using a pasta spoon, transfer the pasta to the pesto sauce. Set over high heat, add a little pasta water if necessary to loosen the sauce, and toss gently.
Jill Santopietro