One of my most anticipated events of spring is fresh asparagus. Yes, an event. That very first bunch of just-picked, garden-fresh asparagus is an event to me. It it more divine than you could ever imagine - so much better than anything at the store. I crave it so much that it rarely gets further than a few hours from the market before it's been devoured...raw.
Raw asparagus. I love the way it bites, the way it snaps in your mouth, the way it surprises you with a layer of sweetness below the meatiness of the hearty rusk of skin. It's superb, really.
Equally anticipated is my husband's fresh pasta. While he makes pasta all year long the spring and summer pastas are the best - tossed with fresh tomatoes that pop as you bite them, basil barely a week old, fennel fronds stolen away from steps beyond the back door, gratings of cheese just home from the market after a lingering conversation with our cheese monger. Oh yes, the sun-shining season pasta is the best.
Recently, at one of our very first farmers markets of the season, I wandered past a store that was closing it's doors. I bought a basket perfect for showcasing our gorgeously speckled farm fresh eggs, then stepped to the side to call my husband. As we conversed, discussing if we should meet for lunch, my eyes wandered back into the store. On a nearly barren table was a display rack, one pair of beeswax candles left hanging from it. I went back in and inquired, then bought it on the spot and about ran and skipped at the same time to hide in in the trunk of my car.
I had finally found the perfect pasta drying rack.
Years of trial and error. Years of pasta nests that take too long to dry, strange loops and ribbons of pasta. Finally.
We tried it out right away and I can say, without a doubt, it is the best repurposing we've ever done.
In appreciation for his fresh pasta, for spring and fresh asparagus, and as a nod to my dear husband's rather newly acquired love of (slightly) spicy things I prepared a bright yet subtle sauce...an aoili, I suppose. Tangy, a savory spiciness, light as a feather, a salute to the sublime seasons just beginning to show their colors.
Linguini with Asparagus and Chipotle Aioli
Serves about 4
1 bunch linguini (or preferred pasta) Enough for 4 - a bunch about 1.5" in diameter
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large shallot, minced
1 small lemon (meyer is preferred)
1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1/2 - 1" pieces
salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan or asiago cheese
Optional: Consider adding in hot sausage, crispy bacon (as we did, and my husband has requested for the future) and/or roasted or sundried tomatoes!
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. If you prefer, add salt. Add pasta.
- While pasta is cooking: heat a small frying pan on medium - medium-low heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil, shallot and garlic. Sauté until onion is just softened, about a minute. (Note: If you like more impact or prefer the taste of raw onions you can skip this step and go on to the next)
- Add 1 chipotle pepper (begin with a smaller one, if you choose later you can add more heat), oil, garlic, onion, and the juice from 1/2 of the lemon to a food processor and process until smooth and blended. Set aside.
- When pasta is almost done to your liking, add your asparagus and cook until tender-crisp and vibrant green.
- Drain pasta and toss with chipotle sauce. Serve with a good helping of grated cheese.