From America's Test Kitchen Season 5: Quicker Pasta
Asparagus is a natural starting point when trying to make a tomato-free vegetarian pasta sauce. Its sweet, vegetable flavor and quick-cooking nature is a terrific match to pasta. But more often than not, asparagus sauces are bland and boring. We wanted to keep it simple but make this dish livelier. First, we focused on how to cook the asparagus. Boiling and steaming dilute the vegetable’s grassy flavor, so they were out. Instead, we browned the asparagus in a hot skillet, after cutting it into bite-size pieces, for a sauce that’s both quick and flavorful. The asparagus caramelized just a bit, and the heat brought out the flavors of the other ingredients, such as onions, walnuts, and garlic. To finish off the dish, we paired the asparagus with a balance of salty, sweet, and sour ingredients. In one dish, we teamed asparagus with balsamic vinegar, basil, and pecorino and in another, arugula, blue cheese, and apple worked well.
Serves 4 to 6 as a main dish
Campanelli is a frilly trumpet-shaped pasta. If you cannot find it, fusilli works well. Take care not to overreduce the vinegar, or it will become bitter.