When I was around 8 years old we lived in Lincoln, Nebraska, two blocks from the Capitol building. Nice town. When we first moved into our small rented house, my mother reconnoitered the backyard and spotted some fluffy bushes, around 4 feet tall. "Asparagus", she whispered to me. We walked down the alley behind our house and found more asparagus plants growing in a ditch. "Don't tell anyone about this", she said. And in the years that followed while living there, we harvested lots of delicious asparagus spears in the Spring. Whenever my mother moved to a new home, she had an unerring ability to find wild asparagus growing in ditches or fields. It was always our little secret. I've never found any wild asparagus here in California. But, commercial growers produce beautiful blue tipped asparagus in the Delta, not far from where I live. Still, it's not as much fun as discovering the wild variety.
The asparagus fettuccine I fixed tonight was delicious and very simple to make. The only hard part was eating a modest portion, when I wanted to scarf the entire amount. Yes, it's a little rich, from the butter. But, it doesn't have any cream in it, so I consider it almost spartan.
Asparagus Fettuccine (Williams-Sonoma)
To trim asparagus, you can cut off the dry, coarse-looking base or simply break off the tough end of each spear by bending it gently until it snaps. It will break at the point where the tender part ends and the tough part begins.
1 lb. asparagus, ends trimmed
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
Zest of 2 lemons
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 lb. fettuccine
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
In an asparagus pot or steamer filled halfway with boiling salted water, add the asparagus, tips up. Cover and cook until tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Cut the asparagus into 1 inch lengths; set aside.
In a large sauté pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute. Add the wine, bring to a boil and cook until almost evaporated. Add the asparagus, butter and lemon zest, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the butter melts. Season with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot two-thirds full of salted water to a boil
over high heat. Add the pasta and cook according to the package
instructions. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.
Transfer the pasta to a serving bowl. Add the asparagus sauce and chives and toss to coat. Add the reserved cooking water if the pasta seems dry. Pass the cheese at the table. Serves 4 to 6.