While I was in Germany and France last month, just about everywhere I went, sandwich boards proclaimed in German or French “Lust auf Spargel?” “Fin de l’Asperge!” And it seemed every bistro and restaurant had specials celebrating the edible spring perennial. And truly, it is best savored when it is fresh and local. I enjoyed a wonderful pasta dish at the Ratskeller in Munich my very first night and remember it wistfully. With roasted tomatoes, tender asparagus and a drizzle of cream, this easy dish is a satisfying vegetarian meal, even for omnivores like myself. There is a brief moment here in Ohio in the latest June or the earliest July, when the asparagus and the tomato harvests almost touch, those few precious days would the most wonderful time to enjoy this dish.
Spargel Pasta, serves 4
1 bunch asparagus
1 cup of small tomatoes or 2 or 3 meaty tomatoes, such as romas, sliced
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 generous handfuls of spinach, chopped if they are large leaves
1/2 pound of wide, flat pasta, such as fettucini
1/2 c heavy cream
1/2 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Olive oil, salt, pepper
In a roasting pan, add the tomatoes and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes at 400 F.
Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to the boil and cook the pasta according to package directions. If you so choose, prior to adding the pasta, you could boil your asparagus for three minutes (depending on thickness) then shock in ice water. I prefer to steam mine, then shock them. When the vegetables are cooked, slice the stalks in thirds.
In a saute pan large enough to accommodate the pasta, heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium low heat and add the shallot and garlic. Cook for two minutes or until softened. Add in the cream and cook over low heat while the pasta is cooking.
When the pasta is done, drain, reserving about a cup of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the cream sauce and add in the cooked asparagus, tomatoes and spinach. Add in the pasta water a little at a time along with the grated cheese stirring until you have a creamy sauce. Adjust seasoning and serve garnished with more cheese.