A delicious seasonal dish for you to enjoy this week.
Asparagus is back in season and back at its best, so now is the time to eat as much of it as you can. This delicious recipe below from Mary Carney is easy to whip up but incredibly tasty. As Carney says below, asparagus is a seasonal ingredient that can make any meal that bit better. Read what she has to say about asparagus below, then try her tasty pasta recipe.
Mary Carney on asparagus
I have always loved asparagus. As a child, I was intrigued by their shape – like chunky pencils. They seemed exotic, expensive and decadent. Even now, I consider asparagus to be a posh vegetable capable of elevating a meal to greatness. Perhaps this has something to do with its name –asparagus sounds fancy in a way that turnip doesn’t.
As a child, I only ever remember eating asparagus in May and June when it was in season. I imagine that imported asparagus was too expensive for a family of five children so my Mum used to serve it as a starter on special occasions and only when it was in season. She let the asparagus do the talking, and served it alongside a French hollandaise sauce. My siblings and I didn’t understand why hollandaise sauce was so hard to make but when it passed our lips, covering the beautiful asparagus, we knew it was worth our Mum’s effort.
Now that it’s asparagus season, I can’t wait to indulge in this savoury treat. Try your best to buy locally grown asparagus as it will taste much fresher and have a fuller flavour. Asparagus is surprisingly low in calories and packed with nutrients. Kids seem to enjoy it too (as my childhood proves) so it’s sure to be a family pleaser. There are so many ways to enjoy it – try making a delicate soup with the stems while reserving the spears for a salad, or toss some par-boiled spears into an omelette or simply add to stir-fries or curries for some added crunch. Just remember that it’s better to undercook than overcook if you want to avoid waterlogged stems.
Asparagus, bacon and lemon zest pasta
"This is a great way to make a simple bowl of pasta taste more exciting. The bacon adds a nice saltiness to the asparagus while the lemon sharpens the flavour. It’s not a classic Italian combination but it’s a great use of asparagus nonetheless"
- 400g of dried pasta, like spaghetti, linguini, tagliatelle or papardelle
- 1 large bunch asparagus spears cut into 4cm lengths on the diagonal
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 shallot, finely diced
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 6 rashers of good quality bacon
- ½ glass dry white wine
- 300ml cream
- 1 cup of reserved pasta cooking water
- Handful of flat-leaf parsley
- 2 handfuls Parmesan
- 1 lemon, zest only
- Place a large pot of water to boil, add salt and cook the pasta according to the packet instructions. Boil the asparagus pieces in a separate pan of salted boiling water for four minutes. Once cooked, refresh under cold water and set aside to be added to the sauce at a later stage.
- While the pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce. Place a large frying pan on a medium low heat, add the olive oil and cook the shallot, garlic and bacon for 3 or 4 minutes until the bacon is cooked. Add the wine and turn up the heat on high to reduce the liquid. Once the liquid has almost completely evaporated, pour in the cream and allow to boil for a minute or so before adding the asparagus pieces. Season with salt and pepper.
- Once the pasta is cooked, strain it and reserve 1 cup of cooking water. Toss the strained pasta with the asparagus and bacon sauce and add the parsley, a handful of Parmesan and half the lemon zest.
- If the sauce appears too dry or thick, add some of the reserved water to loosen it. Finally, divide the pasta among four plates and serve with a further grating of Parmesan, some more chopped parsley and another sprinkle of lemon zest.
Recipe by Mary Carney