This recipe was originally featured in The 30 Second Wine Advisor's FoodLetter on Thursday, June 16, 2005.

Pasta with asparagus

INGREDIENTS: (serves 2)

8- to 12-ounce bunch fresh green asparagus (250 to 350g)
4 ounces (120g) conchiglie (small shell pasta) or other short pasta
1/4 cup (60ml) heavy cream or creme fraiche
Black pepper


1. Rinse the asparagus, cut off and discard any woody ends, then cut the spears into bite-size (1/2-inch or 1-cm) lengths, keeping the spear tips separate.

2. Bring about 1 cup lightly salted water to a boil in a small saucepan and simmer about one-third of the cut-up asparagus until it's tender. Lift it out with a slotted spoon, reserving the cooking water, and blend the cooked asparagus and the creme fraiche into a smooth puree with a standing or stick blender. Reserve.

3. Put the pasta on to boil in a large pot of salted water as per package instructions.

4. While the pasta is cooking, simmer the rest of the asparagus in the reserved cooking water for about 10 minutes or until it's just tender. Put the spear points in a little later so they won't overcook. Drain the asparagus well and return it to the saucepan with the reserved asparagus-cream sauce. Stir to blend, and add black pepper, cumin and additional salt to taste. Keep it warm over very low heat.

5. When the pasta is al dente, drain it and stir it into the asparagus sauce. Serve in warm bowls. (OPTIONS: I could also see serving the asparagus and asparagus cream as a standalone vegetable dish with a separate starch course - bread or potatoes - or serving it over rice.)

I served this as a side dish with a red-meat course, flatiron steaks with a hot-sour Veracruzana-style marinade (which I'll be happy to discuss in a coming edition if there's any interest), and chose a red Rhone wine to go with the steaks. If I were looking for a direct match for an asparagus dish like this, I would follow the lead of Sommelier Kelly McAuliffe at Christian Etienne and go with Rhone-Languedoc or Loire whites or Loire or Provence rosés.

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