I am having a girlfriend over for dinner tomorrow and my mouth is already watering for the pasta I am going to make.  Thinking about the seasonal produce I of course want to use asparagus and from there I thought, what sounds good?  The answer-pasta!!
I don’t eat a lot of pasta at home, I actually don’t eat a lot of pasta in general.  But there are a few combinations that I simply can’t resist and, on occasion, get a craving for.  Butternut squash or pumpkin filled ravioli in a browned butter sauce (I mean, really, how could that be bad?), light and fluffy perfectly made gnocchi in a fresh tomato basil sauce (of course with plenty of fresh parmigiano-reggiano) and the final is fresh linguine with a pancetta/bacon, cream and parmigiano-reggiano sauce with fresh spring peas and asparagus.  Any of those three will most definitely win me over as a friend (in case any of you are wondering how to get me onto your good side….)
The best part about the asparagus and pea pasta is that it really takes just a few ingredients.  Of course, just like with any recipe, you should use this recipe as just a building block and add whatever flavors you like into it.  Mushrooms, yes!  Arugula, yes!  Shrimp, hell yes!  Let yourself get creative and I guarantee you will be pleased with the results.  (Plus, let’s be honest if you mess it up there aren’t a whole lot of dishes that can’t be fixed with a boatload of fresh grated parmigiano-reggiano!)
So, go to your local farmer’s market or co-op this week (or grocery store which hopefully will carry some local asparagus and fresh peas) and pick up some goodies to throw in this pasta dish.  Mangia!
Fresh Linguine with Bacon, Peas and Asparagus
  • 1/4 cup diced pancetta or 4 strips bacon, diced (easiest to do when frozen…)
  • 1 lb. asparagus, cut into 1-2” pieces
  • 1 cup fresh shelled peas (blanched about 1 min) or frozen peas
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed with back of knife and roughly chopped
  • 3-4 shallots, diced
  • 1 t. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2-3 big spoonfuls mascarpone (or ¼ cup heavy cream)
  • 1 cup fresh grated parmigiano-reggiano
  • juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • ½ lb. fresh linguine
  • handful parsley, roughly chopped (probably about 1/3 cup) *
    1. Heat large pot of water for the pasta. (don’t forget to add the salt!)
    2. Put pancetta, or bacon, in large sauté pan and render fat out over medium-low heat.  About 8-10 minutes until browned and crispy.  With slotted spoon, remove pancetta from pan.
    3. Add the asparagus and cook 2-3 minutes.
    4. Add the peas, garlic, shallot and crushed red pepper. Toss with tongs.  Cook 4-5 minutes until fragrant.
    5. Cook the fresh linguine according to package and –this is very important- save ½ cup the pasta cooking water.*
    6. While the pasta is cooking (and by the way, it won’t take very long.  Fresh pasta cooks in 3-4 minutes), add the mascarpone or heavy cream to the pan, stir to melt.  Then add the parmigiano-reggiano, a good glug of olive oil, half the lemon zest and juice and the linguine with its ½ cup cooking water.  Toss to coat everything and cook a few minutes to make a beautiful creamy sauce.
    7. Sprinkle the parsley over all, toss again, season with salt and pepper and serve.
*there have been so many times I have forgotten to save the pasta water, so now when I add the pasta to the pot I also put a glass measuring cup inside my colander to help remind me when I am draining the pasta!
*sometimes I add mint and/or basil in addition to some parsley in this dish.  Hopefully you are growing one of those in your garden, so pick it, smell it (yum!) and throw it in!