We spent last weekend up in Umbria. I was hoping to catch the wisteria in bloom (too early) but instead got wild asparagus. Not a bad trade-off. Although…it’s much more difficult to get a decent photograph of the asparagus!
I blissfully spent two afternoons in the woods, Pico at my heels, with my asparagus picker in my hand. As usual, after hours of work I came back with a handful of woody stems. But that was ok. Since they are wild asparagus, they are much more intensely flavored than the cultivated kind, so a little goes a long way.
I was just about to use the tender tips to make a frittata when Domenico came home with a bag full of freshly harvested artichokes from our friends. Change of plans: the little frittata turned into Pasta with Artichokes, Asparagus and Ricotta.
For this dish I was lucky enough to have wild asparagus and sheep milk ricotta, but don’t worry, you can use regular asparagus (just the tips) and the best ricotta you can find. The recipe is a bit of a mashup. I use eggs as I would in carbonara (uncooked) but the addition of both vegetables and ricotta takes it very far from anything carbonara-ish. It’s a much milder, somewhat lighter, dish than traditional carbonara, with it’s chunks of pork. Also, the lack of pork really lets the delicate flavors of the spring vegetables shine.
And speaking of vegetables, I’m thinking other spring vegetables would work just as nicely. Peas, fave or even the first tender baby zucchini.
A word about herbs: I used a big handful of freshly picked parsley at the end. It really does make a difference. I would have also added some lemon zest if I had any.
- 500 grams / 1 pound pasta
- 4 artichokes, trimmed
- 1 cup asparagus tips (save stems for other use)
- ½ cup chopped parsley
- 1 whole egg
- 2 egg yolks
- ¼ cup grated parmigiano reggiano
- ¼ cup grated pecorino romano
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
- ¼ onion, chopped finely (about 3 tablespoons)
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup sheep milk ricotta
- ¼ tsp ground black pepper
- Prepare the artichokes by trimming off the outer leaves, taking the choke out and slicing them thinly. (see this post about working with artichokes)
- Pour oil into a pan big enough to hold all of the cooked pasta later.
- Add the onions, garlic and ¼ teaspoon of salt.
- Cook over low heat until softened.
- Add the artichokes, stirring to coat with oil. Add about a cup of water, put lid on pan, and simmer for 8 minutes.
- After 8 minutes, test for doneness. It's hard to advise on timing, since all artichokes are different. Mine were super tender and at 8 minutes were almost over cooked. You want them tender, but not falling apart.
- In the meantime place ricotta, grated cheeses, pepper and eggs in a small bowl and whip till smooth with a fork.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add pasta.
- Once you've put the pasta in, you can add the asparagus tips to the pan with the artichokes. Turn the heat to medium, add some of the pasta cooking water (about a cup) and cook until tips are tender. It should work out to be about when the pasta is done. You want to do this at the last minute to keep the asparagus bright green.
- When pasta is almost done, drain, reserving 2 cups of the cooking water.
- Add the pasta to pan with vegetables. stirring over medium heat, adding ½ to 1 cup of the reserved water. Finish cooking till pasta is al dente.
- Add ¼ cup of the cooking water to the ricotta mixture, stirring well.
- Turn off the heat and ricotta mixture to the pan with the pasta, stirring well to mix.
- Add parsley, and serve.