Who knew there was such a thing as asparagus shoots? I mean, I imagine most vegetables have shoots, but I had never seen the asparagus variety until last Saturday at the farmers' market. Curious looking little things. Imagine a tiny, delicate asparagus stalk with more pronounced little leafy and seedy bits covering half the thing instead of just the very tip. That's pretty much what asparagus shoots look like. They have a more subtle flavor than their elders (and they don't turn your urine green.)
In this dish, I've combined fresh, seasonal ingredients that scream spring for me. These include fava beans, spring onions, and lovely little tomatoes that add sweetness and a little acid. Go easy on the salt, as the salted ricotta and capers are fairly salty already.
Spring pasta with asparagus sprouts and fava beans
1 lb strozzapreti or penne
1/2 lb fresh fava beans
1 red or green spring onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, trimmed and julienned
1 small basket asparagus sprouts
4-5 plum tomatoes, quartered, then halved
1/4 lb ricotta salata
2 TBS capers, rinsed
2 handfuls parsley, coarsely chopped
chili pepper flakes
- Cook pasta until al dente. As the pasta cooks, shell the fava beans and fry the beans in olive oil. Remove the tough outer casing of the beans.
- Drain the pasta, reserving the cooking water. Pour a little of the oil from the fava beans over the pasta and toss.
- Heat some olive oil in a large skillet. Fry the spring onion until the green part brightens.
- Add in the carrots and stir for a minute or two. Add in the asparagus sprouts and stir. Cook for one minute and remove from heat.
- In a large bowl, toss the vegetable mixture with the pasta.
- Crumble in the dry ricotta. Mix in the tomatoes, capers, parsley, and lemon zest.
- Squeeze the juice of half the lemon over the pasta and toss. If the pasta is a bit dry, pour over some reserved pasta water and toss to coat.
- Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper and chili pepper flakes.