Asparagus is in season in March and after all the snow we've just had, it's beginning to feel a lot like Spring. So to kick the new season off, I've come up with this lovely pasta dish that is packed full of flavour with some lovely fresh ingredients..
The pesto is of course homemade, and really is so easy to make. You will just need a blender or a pestle and mortar along with some elbow grease.
120g of uncooked wholewheat Spaghetti or Linguini pasta
1 tsp of olive oil
1 clove of garlic, roughly chopped
30g fresh basil leaves
25g Parmesan, finely grated
50ml of Olive Oil
1 lemon, juiced
6-8 cherry tomatoes, halved sideways (not through the stalk)
Half a teaspoon of olive oil
1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
10 asparagus spears, ends chopped
1 tsp of olive oil
100g of Cavolo Nero, finely chopped
6-8 pitted black olives, halved
30g feta cheese, crumbled (optional)
Before you begin, preheat the grill and prepare all the ingredients for the pesto.
1. Rub a little olive oil over the asparagus and season with salt and pepper. Place under the grill for 10-15 mins, turning once, until nicely browned and cooked through.
2. Blend all the ingredients for the pesto, except the lemon, salt and pepper, in a magimix or similar. Or better still, use a pestle and mortar to pound all the ingredient to a nice smooth paste. Season the pesto by adding the lemon juice, salt and pepper bit by bit until you are happy with the balance of flavours. One lemon should be enough but your personal preference may mean you require more or less than this. Set aside for later
3. Heat some water in a pan and bring to the boil. Add a pinch of salt and some olive oil. Tip in the pasta and cook on a medium heat for 8-10 minutes, or until al-dente.
4. Meanwhile, place the tomato halves into a bowl and add the oil and balsamic vinegar with a small pinch of salt and black pepper. If you've cut the tomatoes correctly (not down the stalk) the seeds should hold in place and prevent too much water release. Place the tomatoes on a baking tray next to the asparagus skin-side-down and tip any remaining juices over the tomatoes. Grill for 5 minutes, until the tops have browned and started to go jammy.
5. While the tomatoes are cooking, cook the Cavolo Nero in about 100ml of water (use the pasta water if there's enough) and sauté in the water. The idea is that all the water will disappear as you cook so you may need to add a little more water at a time until the Cavolo Nero is cooked through but still has some bite, and no water remains. If this happens, just tip the excess water away at the end.
6. When the pasta is ready, use some tongs, or a fork and spoon, to transfer the pasta to the pan with your Cavolo Nero. Don't worry if some of the water from the pasta gets transferred too. Then add the pesto and give it a look mix with the tongs, or whatever you are using.
7. Serve in two pasta bowls and sprinkle over the top the rest of the tomatoes, olives and crumble over the feta if using.
If you're vegetarian and prefer not to use Parmesan then a hard goat's cheese would work well instead of parmesan
This dish would work well with a fillet of salmon or chicken breast. Grill next to the asparagus and remove the skin once cooked. Add the chicken to the pasta at the same time as the pesto and follow the rest of the method above. If using salmon, carefully flake over the top of the pasta at the end before adding the feta, olives and tomatoes.
I am yet to devise a recipe for a plant-based pesto but this will be coming soon!