Let this asparagus pasta with grated apple usher you into spring
This week’s recipe prominently features asparagus, a favorite spring vegetable.
No, the thin, tender stalks that I love to eat raw are not yet plentiful at farmers markets, but this dish, Pasta with Asparagus, Blue Cheese and Walnuts, reminds me that there are milder days ahead.
The thicker, meatier asparagus available year-round works well in this preparation, and the blend of bitter walnuts, peppery arugula and pungent blue cheese makes for a hearty pasta dish with hues of green that strikes the right balance as the chill lingers.
To start, you place the asparagus in a high-heat skillet with a little oil and cook it until it takes on a few brown spots; then add the walnuts and cook the mixture until the nuts are toasty and the asparagus is crisp-tender.
The arugula gets added to the pan for a minute until just wilted. Then, that mixture is tossed with your favorite pasta, blue cheese, a splash of vinegar and a little more oil.
But you’re not quite done yet. This is where this America’s Test Kitchen recipe offers a smart twist. After you divide the pasta among bowls, you grate fresh apple over each. This sounded a little unusual to me, but the apple pieces complemented the nuts and blue cheese beautifully and gave each bite a cool, juicy surprise.
So if it is not yet gloriously temperate where you are, I hope this dish of sweet and bitter, crisp and creamy helps you bridge the seasons.
Pasta with Asparagus, Blue Cheese and Walnuts
For a less pungent salad, use mild baby spinach in place of the peppery arugula, and goat cheese instead of the blue cheese.
Storage notes: Refrigerate for up to 2 days.
1/2 teaspoon fine salt, plus more as needed
1 pound gemelli, penne or fusilli pasta
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup raw, unsalted walnuts, chopped
4 cups lightly packed regular or baby arugula leaves from 1 large bunch, washed and thoroughly dried
6 ounces strong blue cheese, such as Roquefort, crumbled
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 Granny Smith apple, halved and peeled
Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a stockpot. Lightly salt and add the pasta, stir to separate and cook according to the package instructions, until al dente. Drain and return the pasta to the pot.
While the pasta is cooking, in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat, heat 2 tablespoons of oil until it just begins to smoke. Add the asparagus, pepper and the 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Toss to coat and then spread the asparagus in a single layer and cook without stirring, until it begins to brown on one side, about 1 minute.
Add the walnuts and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the asparagus is tender-crisp and the nuts are toasted, about 4 minutes. Add the arugula and toss until just starting to wilt, about 1 minute.
Add the asparagus mixture, cheese, vinegar and the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil to the pasta and toss to combine.
Divide the pasta among bowls, and use the coarse side of a box grater to grate a little apple over each bowl. Serve hot.
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen.
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