Hello, hello, hello – the Crazy Cook is back after a ridiculous period of busy-ness. (The Lazy Cook has been busy, too; so busy that she and I haven’t connected on food together in, well, a while, but we’ll do more videos soon.) To catch you up: June was a very foodie month. First there was the IACP Conference (International Association of Culinary Professionals) in Austin, Texas (I was in foodie heaven, hanging out amidst the likes of Jacques Pepin, Dorie Greenspan, Martin Yan, John Besh, Ellie Krieger, Rick Bayless, and baking / food science guru Shirley Corriher). And in late June I FINALLY – finally! – managed to eat at Next, chef Grant Achatz’s second restaurant (after Alinea), which was amazing. I’ll share more details on both those experiences in my next post, but I just have to share now one of my summer favorites: pasta with asparagus and basil pesto.
I love this dish because: it’s easy, it’s quick, it’s utterly fresh, delicious and seasonal and it’s equally good served warm or at room temperature. I usually make enough to serve a crowd or serve me over several days. You could easily add some sautéed or roasted chicken or shrimp if you wanted, but I find myself eating more vegetarian dishes in summer, mostly because this is where my inner Lazy Cook comes out, and because usually I forget to defrost chicken or shrimp!) And on top of it all, it’s a perfect dish to accompany a cold glass of summer sauvignon blanc (my new favorite). Want to make it? Let’s do it!
1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed (just break the stalks in two with your hands – they’ll snap off naturally where they get tough, or lop off a couple of inches of the tough stem with a knife if you’re lazy! I do not bother peeling asparagus.)
6 ounces pasta (I used this imported garganelli I found at a specialty store, but any tubular-type pasta like rigatoni, penne or rotini works well – they all “catch” the pesto nicely).
2 -3 Tbl. basil pesto
You can use jarred pesto or you can make it yourself. It’s so easy: in a Cuisinart, chop 2 cloves garlic and then add 2 C. packed basil leaves, 1/2 C. extra virgin olive oil, 3 Tbl. pine nuts and about 1 tsp. salt (taste it). Whiz it up, and then add in 1/2 C. grated Parmesan, 2 Tbl. grated Romano cheese and – yes, 3 Tbl. room-temperature butter. I know the butter’s untraditional, but just shut up – it makes it extra rich and delish).
Extra grated Parmesan, to sprinkle on top
What You Do:
1) Steam your asparagus until crisp-tender
2) Cook your pasta according to package directions. IMPORTANT: before you drain the pasta, scoop out at least 1/2 C. of pasta water into a measuring cup and set it aside. You will add this later, to make the dish silky and delicious.
3) Alrighty, we’re almost done – I told you it’s quick and easy! Slice your steamed asparagus into one- or two-inch pieces. Return your drained pasta to the pasta pot. Add the pesto. Stir.
Add some of the reserved pasta water to make a satiny, smooth sauce. Add the asparagus and stir carefully, to be sure you don’t bash the lovely asparagus into smithereens. Serve with grated parmesan. And a glass of nice sauvignon blanc – it’s a nice, light, but flavorful, white wine that is so refreshing with summer dishes – and summer warmth. Buon appetito!