Asparagus and Herb Pasta
This bright, fresh and zingy pasta is spring simplicity at its best. It comes to life with the acidity and tang of green olives and lemon zest and is balanced by the sweetness and depth of asparagus, a combination of soft herbs and crisp garlic. It also comes together in the same time it takes to boil a pot of water and cook your pasta - if that isn’t a peak weeknight dinner I don't know what is.
This recipe relies on steps six and seven to come together, i.e. adding the pasta and pasta water to the pan and emulsifying it with the herbs and asparagus. Although this isn’t a cream-based pasta, it relies on emulsifying (the process of combining fat and water without the two separating) the sautéed asparagus, herbs, plant based parmesan and butter with the pasta water, in order to create a glossy creamy sauce rather than thin and oily one. I always do a couple things to guarantee emulsifying success. The first is to use tongs to remove the pasta from the pasta water, rather than directly draining the pasta. Because of its starch, pasta water is what makes emulsifying sauces without cream possible, and there’s nothing worse than having reserved too little pasta water before draining - so keeping a whole pot of it on hand eliminates the chance of shortages.
The second thing I always do is make sure I’m not rushing the process. It’s way more likely to not spend enough time stirring the pasta into sauce once it has been added to the pan, rather than to spend too long stirring. Make sure you give it the full time it needs and don’t stop until the liquid has thickened - it will happen even if it doesn’t seem like it will. The good news is that if you over-stir the pasta and it feels stiff and thick, you can simply loosen it up with a splash of extra pasta water that you handily still have in abundance thanks to not draining it earlier.
2 tbsp (30g) olive oil
3 cloves garlic, finely sliced
½ tsp chilli flakes
30g parsley, finely chopped (stems included)
20g basil, finely chopped
20g mint, finely chopped
500g asparagus (9 stalks), finely chopped
1 tsp salt
150g green olives, chopped
400g tagliatelle or spaghetti
50g plant based parmesan, finely grated
2 tbsp (30g), plant based butter
1 lemon, zested
40g panko breadcrumbs
1 lemon, zested
1 clove garlic, finely grated
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp (15g) olive oil
Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a large pan over medium low heat. Once hot, add the garlic and gently toast it for 5-6 minutes, until lightly golden.
Stir in the chilli flakes and half of the parsley, basil and mint and raise the heat to medium. Sauté the herbs for 2-3 minutes, then add the finely chopped asparagus and salt.
Sauté the asparagus for 5-6 minutes, until vibrant and tender. Add the chopped olives, and cook them for 1 minute. Set the pan aside.
In the meantime, make the topping. In a small saucepan set to medium low heat, combine the breadcrumbs, lemon zest, garlic and salt. Toast the breadcrumbs for 4-5 minutes, stirring often to prevent them from burning, until golden brown. Stir in the olive oil and remove the pan from heat.
Set a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the pasta, according to the package instructions, until al dente.
Use a pair of tongs to transfer the cooked pasta from the water into the pan with the sautéd asparagus (rather than draining it), along with 200ml cooking water (the water the pasta was cooked in), parmesan, and butter.
With the pan set over high heat, stir the pasta constantly for 3-4 minutes, until it looks glossy and the liquid at the bottom of the pan has thickened and become creamy. Add an extra splash of cooking water if it feels too thick and stiff.
Fold in the reserved parsley, mint and basil as well as the zest of a lemon. Taste for seasoning and adjust to taste - adding more salt, lemon zest or parmesan to taste.
Serve the pasta topped with the breadcrumbs, a drizzle of olive oil and extra lemon zest.
by Valentina Concordia
Valentina is our Food Creative, who dreams up our tasty dishes and recipes for our social channels. She has loads of experience cooking up a storm in Italian kitchens, so it’s no surprise she can’t live without good-quality olive oil (don’t come between her and her olive oil) and fresh pasta.