Asparagus is one of those things that—thanks to modern shipping methods—you can get all year. But get one taste of true local grown asparagus—with its amazing combination of earthy-yet-fresh flavors that taste like the miracle of a spring garden—and it will be hard to ever enjoy trucked-in-from-afar asparagus again.
Before we get to today’s recipe, here are a couple FAQs:
• Do I need to peel asparagus?: You don’t have to, but French chefs nearly always do. My French friend David, a chef, says he and his compatriots have an aversion to the texture of those scales. So, after you’ve snapped off the base and rinsed the asparagus, simply take a veggie peeler to it and scrape off those scales.
• Are thin stalks better than thick stalks?: No. They taste the same. And, in fact, if you’re a fan of peeling asparagus, you’ll prefer thick stalks. Peeling thin asparagus is tricky, because you can too-easily scrape it down to nothing.
Now, on to today’s recipe, which combines asparagus and prosciutto for irresistible results:
French Tagliatelles with Asparagus and Prosciutto
This recipe is from The French Pasta Cookbook: 25 délicieuse recipes from bistros, cafés, and home kitchens.
8 ounces dried tagliatelle or fettucine
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
4 scallions (white portion and some tender green tops), sliced (about 1/4
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon chicken base paste, such as Better than Bouillon or 1/2
teaspoon of crumbled chicken bouillon cube*
4 ounces soft-ripened or hard-aged goat cheese (crumbled if soft-ripened,
grated if hard) for more see
2 tablespoons snipped fresh parsley or chives, or a combination
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon Piment d’Espelette or 1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1/4 cup prosciutto, sliced into thin ribbons (about 1 ounce)
1. Bring a large pot of salted and cook the tagliatelle according to package
directions; drain; reserve and set aside 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Keep pasta
2. Heat the olive oil in the pot used to cook the pasta over medium heat. Add
the asparagus and cook until just tender-crisp, about 4 minutes. Add the scallions
and garlic and cook about 1 minute, until the scallions are slightly tender but not
3. Stir the chicken base into the reserved pasta water. Off the heat, add the
pasta water to the vegetables (stand back, it will spatter). Boil until slightly reduced,
about 1 minute.
4. Return the cooked, drained pasta to the pot. Add the goat cheese, fresh
herbs, and salt and pepper; toss well to combine. Let stand about 3 minutes (the
pasta will absorb some of the liquid).
5. Divide into shallow bowls. Scatter the Piment d’Espelette and the prosciutto
ribbons evenly over the plates. Serve immediately.
* Chicken base, such as Better Than Bouillon, is a concentrated chicken paste
available in jars in the supermarket, next to the dried bouillon cubes and granules.
We find it tastes better than bouillon.
Wini Moranville is the author of The Bonne Femme Cookbook: Simple, Splendid Food That French Women Cook Every Day. For more French cooking tips and recipes, follow her on Facebook at Chez Bonne Femme.
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