This Asparagus & Pine Nut Pasta is a deliciously easy way to use spring asparagus. It’s a version of the classic olio, aglio, pepperoncino pasta. You can get this quick recipe together in the time it takes to boil the pasta. Despite the pine nuts, this is a remarkably low calorie dish if you keep the pasta to a 2 oz serving as we recommend for all our pasta recipes. Serve it with a little freshly grated Parmesan.
1. In a large stockpot boil enough water for pasta. Add 1 tablespoon of salt.
2. Cut the asparagus roughly the same length as the pasta you’re using.
3. When the pasta water comes to a boil, add the salt and bring it back to a rolling boil, then add the pasta. Cook for 6 minutes.
4. Add the asparagus to the boiling pasta and cook together for 2 minutes. Drain, reserving 1½ cup of the pasta water. Both the pasta and the asparagus should be very al dente.
5. While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a wide, deep skillet or wok. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and the chili pepper and stir-fry until the garlic is golden, about 5 minutes. Lower the heat if the garlic is turning brown too quickly.
6. Add the parsley and cook for 1 minute. Add a ¼ cup of the reserved pasta water to the pan and bring to a simmer. Add the pine nuts. Turn down heat to medium, adding more pasta water if the pan gets too dry.
7. Mix in the pasta and asparagus. Add the grated cheese and half of the remaining reserved water. Turn up the heat and bring back to a boil. Cook stirring for 1 minute. Add more water, 1/4 cup at a time, if the pasta looks too dry, it should be slightly saucy. Taste for salt then serve with a grind of black pepper.
- 3 tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted
- 1 bunch thin green asparagus (about 1-pound) washed, tough root ends snapped off
- 8 ounces whole wheat penne or rigatoni (2-ounces per person)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 dried cayenne pepper pod or other dried chili, de-seeded (optional)
- 3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Salt and black pepper, to taste
Ann's Tips and Tricks
When making oil based pasta sauces like this one, always reserve a cup or two of the hot pasta water to moisten the sauce. It will keep it light.