Al Fresco Asparagus Pasta

by Catherine Down


It has gotten hot, hot, hot here in rural Italy. My home has gotten a trifle warm, stifling might really be the best adjective, and this pasta dish is a direct result of wanting to spend as little time as possible near a scorching stove or oven. The sauce requires no cooking, just some good old fashioned fork mashing and it involves very few utensils (a bonus for the dishwasherless like myself). In order to beat the heat, Lauren and I moved our dining room table out to the balcony and invited a few friends over for some al fresco feasting.

Be sure to serve with a little candlelight, a lemon cocktail (limoncello, gin, fresh lemon juice and all natural lemon soda with fresh thyme as garnish), good company, and 40,000 vicious tiger mosquitoes.

Asparagus, Lemon, Shallot, Basil Goat Cheese Pasta

Ingredients:

(Serves 4 main course portions, 6 first course portions)

1 8-10 oz. log of goat cheese (I meant to buy a log of fresh, tart goat cheese but accidentally bought a log of aged goat cheese with a white rind. I cut the rind off and used it anyway. It wasnā€™t the exact flavor I was looking for but still pretty tasty.)

1 large shallot (or 2 small ones)

25 basil leaves

2 tbs extra virgin olive oil

2 bunches of asparagus

9 oz of pasta- I used trine, a long tagliatelle type pasta with curly edges, but use whatever shape you prefer

juice of 1 large lemon

2 pinches of salt plus more for pasta water

Parmigiano-Reggiano (for grating on top)

Steps:

1. Remove goat cheese from fridge and let sit on countertop for 30 minutes to soften up a little bit. Put into a large bowl.

2. Finely mince the shallot and mash it into the goat cheese with a fork until well mixed.

3. Finely chop the basil leaves and mash into the goat cheese shallot mixture.

4. Juice 1 large lemon, put 2 tbs olive oil and the lemon juice into the cheese mixture. Mash with a fork until all the ingredients are melded together. Add salt to taste (I used about 2 large pinches). It should look like picture below. Cover in plastic wrap and let sit in the fridge for at least an hour and even overnight so that the flavors have time to meld together.

5. Remove the tough, woody ends from the asparagus. This can be accomplished simply by grabbing the end of the stalk, bend the spear and snap it where it breaks naturally. Cut the asparagus into approximately 1 inch pieces. Set aside.

6. Remove the cheese sauce from the fridge. Put a large pot of water on to boil, add salt, and when water is boiling add the pasta.  Be sure to look at the package instructions and note how long the pasta should cook for. Approximately 4 minutes before the pasta is finished cooking, toss the asparagus pieces into the boiling water with the pasta. Let asparagus and pasta continue to cook until pasta is al dente (firm to the tooth) and the asparagus is tender but still slightly crisp. Drain the pasta.

7. While pasta is still piping hot, immediately put it into the large bowl with the cheese mixture. Stir until the cheese sauce has totally coated the pasta. Grate fresh parmigiano-reggiano on top and serve.

Note: Al fresco dining is only pleasant if your guests do not feel compelled to wear woolen hats, sweatshirts, and socks pulled up over their pants in the middle of sweltering June heat in order to combat mosquitoes. Feel free to serve this pasta indoors as well.