Photo and text by KARA DiCAMILLO/ecoRI News contributor
I look forward to this time of year because one of my favorite things is stopping into just about any local market and picking up fresh asparagus. While you can buy asparagus year-round in the grocery store, the sweet flavor just doesn’t compare to when it’s fresh picked.
One of the places where I like to get these delicious spears is Sweetberry Farm in Middletown. Every year I look forward to the sign in the produce section that says “Sweetberry Farm Asparagus,” and I make a stop probably once a week, if not more. The thing about asparagus is that it’s so delicious by itself grilled, roasted or even simply steamed. Not to mention it’s one of the best vegetables for you because it’s loaded with nutrients and is packed with antioxidants. It’s also a rich source of glutathione, a detoxifying compound that helps break down carcinogens.
While this is a pasta dish, what I like about this recipe is that the other ingredients don’t diminish the flavor of the asparagus. If you want to experiment, you can definitely throw in other vegetables as well, but I feel like they sometimes can overpower the star ingredient.
Fettuccine with Fresh Asparagus and Pancetta
A bunch of asparagus (about 20 spears)
Half-pound of fettuccine
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 glove of garlic, minced
6 thin slices of pancetta, chopped
8 jarred baby artichokes, cut in half
Half-cup of heavy cream
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
Bring a stockpot of salted water to a boil and add the asparagus. Meanwhile, prepare an ice water bath. When the asparagus is tender, about 3 minutes, remove with tongs and place into the ice water to blanch. Add the fettuccine to the same pot of boiling water and cook until the pasta is al dente. Drain the pasta and reserve about a half-cup of the water.
Meanwhile, remove the asparagus from the ice water and cut into 2-inch pieces and set aside. Once you add the pasta to the pot, heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat and add the pancetta. Once the pancetta is browned, add the garlic and sauté another 30 seconds until the garlic is fragrant. Add the asparagus, artichokes, lemon juice, and then the cooked pasta and stir. Slowly add the cream and just enough of the cooking water to moisten. Add the water a quarter-cup at a time (you might not need all of it) and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to pasta bowls and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Enjoy.