Meatless Monday is a lot easier and a lot more fun when spring rolls around. This week I'm taking advantage of the season’s great gift—fresh asparagus—and I naturally turned to Natural Home and Herb Companion food writer Susan Belsinger, whose vegetarian recipes are the bomb. For her Pasta with Asparagus and Herbs, you can use whatever spring herbs are popping up in your garden or market right now, making this the perfect meal to welcome spring. I love the versatility of this recipe—you can use red or white wine (whatever is on hand) and throw in whatever mushrooms are currently available.
Pasta with Asparagus and Herbs
1 1/2 pounds fresh asparagus
1/2 pound fresh mushrooms such as oyster, chanterelle, shiitake, or common field mushrooms
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 heads roasted garlic with oil from roasting
1/2 cup red wine
3/4 cup vegetable broth
Freshly ground pepper
1 pound dried pasta, such as farfalle, fusilli, or ziti; or 1 1/2 pounds fresh whole-wheat noodles
1 tablespoon fresh minced tarragon (or substitute herbs from your garden)
1/3 cup fresh chopped dill sprigs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for topping
1. Boil a large pot of water. Wash the asparagus and break off the tough ends. Cut them into 1 1/2 inch lengths. When the water boils, add salt to taste and blanch the asparagus for 2 to 3 minutes, until crisp tender. Remove with a strainer or slotted spoon and reserve.
2. Using a mushroom brush or a damp paper towel, clean the mushrooms. Slice or tear them into 1-inch pieces. In a large nonreactive sauté pan, combine the butter and olive oil and heat over moderate heat. Sauté the mushrooms, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Slip garlic buds from their skins and add to the pan, stirring for another minute.
3. Add the wine and broth, more salt, and pepper generously; cook for about 3 minutes more. Cover and remove from heat.
4. Cook the pasta al dente and drain. Add pasta to the pan of sautéed mushrooms over medium heat, along with the asparagus, herbs, and Parmesan. Toss well and season to taste. Serve immediately on warm pasta plates and pass extra Parmesan.
Throw fresh asparagus, mushrooms, spring herbs and whatever leftover wine you have handy into this tasty main dish. Photo by Joe Coca