Thursday, April 26, 2007

Balsamic Pasta and Asparagus

Today's entry comes from, once again, Food and Wine, and the realization that we have two bottles of balsamic vinegar kicking around, and isn't it time that issue was addressed?

Note: I still haven't found my camera, but here's a picture from the F&W website. I promise that in normal kitchens, it really does look that good.

This recipe was absolutely delicious. I really wish I'd made more. The roast asparagus just melts in your mouth--and I'm generally not a fan of soft vegetables, but these were great. I was a little worried about the balsamic sauce being to tart, but the sugar and the parm make a huge difference. This is one for the annals.

I used honey instead of brown sugar, which was fabulous. I also used fusili instead of penne, but I really feel like any hearty, short pasta would do the trick. It has to stand up to the asparagus, and carry some weight to it, but long noodles would be unwieldy.

So yes, ultimately a huge success (Food and Wine rocks my socks) and so easy to make. So, so easy. You do have three things going at once, however, none of them are particularly high maintenance. The asparagus do their thing just fine; the pasta's just boiling, and if you have the balsamic vinegar on medium-low, it'll take just as long as the asparagus does with little to no fussing. It's great!
  • 1 pound asparagus
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 pound penne
  • 1/4 pound butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  1. Heat the oven to 400°. Snap the tough ends off the asparagus and discard them. Cut the spears into 1-inch pieces. Put the asparagus on a baking sheet and toss with the oil and 1/4 teaspoon each of the salt and pepper. Roast until tender, about 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, put the vinegar in a small saucepan. Simmer until 3 tablespoons remain. Stir in the brown sugar and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Remove from the heat.
  3. Cook the penne in a large pot of boiling, salted water until just done, about 13 minutes. Drain the pasta and toss with the butter, vinegar, asparagus, Parmesan, and the remaining 1 3/4 teaspoons salt. Serve with additional Parmesan.

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