One of the things I love most about this time of year, besides the flowers and the birds and not having to wear a jacket all the time, is that fresh asparagus is actually affordable. When the price drops below $2.00, I start buying two or three bunches at a time and eating it almost every day. It’s one of those vegetables I consider luxury foods, and it fits easily into just about any type of meal. Making a stir-fry? Throw it in. Need a side dish? Roast some up. Quickie pasta? Roast it, stir-fry it, or steam it and toss with noodles for an elegant meal that doesn’t require you to spend all night in the kitchen.
And that’s basically what I’ve done here. This sumptuous recipe makes use of seasonal asparagus as well as one of my year-round staples, dried porcini mushrooms. They’re great for adding a deep woodsy flavor to sauces, soups, and stews, and I particularly like the contrast of the fresh, green asparagus with the earthy mushrooms. Adding the porcini soaking water to the dish amps up the mushroom flavor, but be sure to strain it first; I’ve had dishes come out with sandy grit when the porcini juice hasn’t been filtered–not a pleasant mouth-feel!
Pasta with Asparagus, Cannellini Beans, and Porcini Cream
It’s not exactly ridiculously easy, but this recipe comes together fairly quickly when you cook the pasta at the same time as you do the sauce and asparagus.
- 1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
- 1/2 cup boiling water
- 12 ounces pasta of choice (I used campagnelle but could use gluten-free or whole wheat spirals)
- 1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
- 1/2 cup light silken tofu (or firm silken)
- 1/2 cup plain soymilk
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 pinch nutmeg
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon sherry
- 15 ounces cannellini beans (or great northern beans), drained and rinsed
- Pour the boiling water over the mushrooms and soak until they are completely rehydrated, about 20 minutes. Strain them through a fine sieve or a coffee filter, catching and reserving the liquid; rinse them if gritty and chop. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling water until al dente. When it’s done, drain it, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water, and put pasta into a serving bowl.
- While the pasta’s cooking, blend the silken tofu, soymilk, and garlic until smooth. Pour it into a saucepan, add a pinch of nutmeg and the reserved mushroom liquid and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the lemon juice, sherry, reserved mushrooms, and the drained beans. Add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer until beans are warm.
- And while that’s cooking, steam the asparagus until tender but crisp, about 5 minutes.
- Add the asparagus to the cooked pasta and toss in the sauce. If it seems dry, add a little of the pasta cooking water. Add more salt or pepper to taste and serve.
Preparation time: 10 minute(s) | Cooking time: 35 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 6
Nutrition (per serving): 330 calories, 15 calories from fat, 1.7g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 31.1mg sodium, 643.2mg potassium, 63.1g carbohydrates, 7g fiber, 1.9g sugar, 16.4g protein, 9 points.