With the month of March less than a week away, spring is peeking its head around the corner. Although Broken Arrow and the rest of the state have had a mild winter, it will be nice to have consistently warmer days and green foliage again.
Get in the mood for springtime with a light and lovely pasta dish that features beautiful asparagus and penne pasta in a creamy sauce with Parmesan cheese, fresh tarragon and whole-grain mustard.
The sauce starts as a basic white sauce, also known as béchamel. The addition of the other ingredients transforms it into anything but basic.
While asparagus is available all year round, it’s at its freshest in the spring. Blanching it briefly first allows it to stay crisp and vibrant green. Once blanched, be sure to get it into a bowl with ice water in order to stop the cooking process. If a colander is fitted into the bowl first, the asparagus can go directly into it to avoid picking ice cubes out later.
Tarragon lends a floral, licorice flavor that although delicious, can be a bit overpowering. Add a little less than the recipe recommends at first and then add the rest if you like the flavor.
Both fresh asparagus and fresh tarragon can be found at Reasor’s and other local grocery stores.
Springtime Asparagus Pasta Toss
- 1 lb. penne pasta
- 1 lb. asparagus, trimmed and cut into ½ inch pieces
- 1/4 cup butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 3 cups whole milk
- 1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
- Salt and pepper
- 2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon or 1 teaspoon dried
- 2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook pasta until just al dente. Drain with a slotted spoon into a colander, but reserve water. Place pasta in a large serving bowl.
Return pot to burner and bring back to a boil. Add asparagus and cook for 2-3 minutes or until crisp-tender. Move to an ice bath to stop cooking.
In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and whisk together for a minute or two to cook out the raw taste of the flour. Whisk in the milk and mustard. Stir constantly until mixture is thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat and add 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, lemon zest, lemon juice and tarragon. Mix well.
Pour sauce over pasta and toss to coat. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese.
Makes 4-6 servings