Asparagus is known as the “queen of all vegetables”.
Early spring is asparagus season. This is a wonderful chance to dive into incredible seasonal fare. When food is in season, it costs less. If possible find a local grower, farmers market or a trusted vegetable vendor.
There are so many ways to use asparagus. This recipe uses asparagus in its pesto. Feel free to change this recipe to make this a family seasonal favorite.
Asparagus is rich in vitamins K, A, B1, B2, B3, C and E. Our bodies use folate to process vitamin B. Asparagus is also loaded with healthy minerals such as copper, magnesium and potassium. Asparagus also has fiber to help our digestion.
Many asparagus dishes have lemon with them. This is because lemon is a great pairing. We’ll see that in other asparagus recipes.
Orecchiette with Asparagus Pesto
Orecchiette is a variety of home-made pasta typical of Apulia, a region of southern Italy. Its name comes from its shape, which resembles a small ear.
This is a wonderful way of using early spring asparagus. As an option, add just a touch of ham, chopped prosciutto or your favorite bacon.
Orecchiette can be made from scratch so that this can be a family fun recipe. Kids will love making shaped pasta. This recipe can start their exploration and discovery of the many different types and shapes of pasta. This is a favorite in our Chefsville Kids Cooking Club.
- 1 bunch asparagus (medium sized with ends trimmed)
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/4 cup hazelnuts (blanched)
- 1/2 cup basil (fresh)
- 1/2 cup parsley (fresh)
- 1/2 cup olive oil (extra virgin plus more for topping)
- 1/3 cup pecorino cheese (plus more for topping)
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
- 1 lemon (zested and juiced)
- 1 tablespoon butter (unsalted, cut into pieces)
- 1 tablespoon salt (kosher or other nice salt)
- 1 teaspoon pepper (freshly ground)
Preparing the Asparagus
- Bring a large bowl of salted ice water to a boil. Zest and juice lemon. Wash and dry the basil and parsley. Peel the garlic clove. Grate the cheeses. Wash the asparagus, then trim the ends off.
- Take a large bowl and fill it half way with ice water.
- Add the asparagus to the boiling water with the garlic and cook until the asparagus is crisp-tender, about 2 minutes.
- Transfer the asparagus and garlic to the ice water. Reserve the pot of water for cooking the pasta. Keep it on the stove for later use. Let the asparagus and garlic cool, then drain and pat dry. Chop off the asparagus tips and set aside; Chop the stems about 1 1/2 inches long cutting the ends so that they are diagonal.
Preparing the Pesto
- Toast the hazelnuts in a dry skillet over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. Transfer to a food processor and let cool. Pulse until roughly chopped.
- Add the asparagus stems and garlic to the food processor; pulse until smooth.
- Add the basil and parsley. With the processor motor running slowly add the olive oil and puree just until smooth.
- Add the Pecorino, Parmesan, lemon zest and lemon juice, 1 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper, pulsing until combined.
Preparing the Pasta
- Returning to the pot of water, bring it back to a boil.
- Add the pasta and cook until al dente (to the tooth) according to the package instructions. Medium sized pasta usually takes about 5-7 minutes.
- Reduce heat of the stove to low heat. Reserve 3/4 cup of the cooking water. Drain the pasta and return the pasta to the pot.
- Add the pesto, butter and the reserved asparagus tips. Toss and add the reserved cooking water as needed to keep the mixture loose while coating it with the pesto. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Drizzle a bit of olive oil on top of each serving, along with a sprinkle of more cheese.