Recipe Test: Pasta with Asparagus, Pancetta, and Pine Nuts

As I've said before, I love to try new recipes.  Sometimes I try a new one every night of the week.  When I find one that I think is particularly delicious, easy to make, and requiring just a few ingredients, I want to tell you about it.  This is one of those recipes.  We liked it so much, we ate the entire dish, even though it's supposed to serve four.  (They would be small servings, I think.)  In any case, here's the recipe with my notes about it.

This recipe first appeared in the March, 2010, issue of Cooking Light magazine.  I received it via email from my subscription to myrecipes.com/ which is an excellent resource, if you haven't seen it.  Here goes:

Pasta with Asparagus, Pancetta, and Pine Nuts
Servings:  4

8 ounces uncooked cavatappi pasta
1 pound asparagus -- trimmed and cut diagonally into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 teaspoon minced garlic
3 tablespoons pine nuts
2 ounces diced pancetta
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup (1 ounce) crumbled Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; add asparagus to pan during last 3 minutes of cooking. Drain. Sprinkle pasta mixture with garlic; return to pan, and toss well.

Arrange pine nuts in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 3 minutes or until golden and fragrant, stirring occasionally. Place in a small bowl.

Increase oven temperature to 475 degrees.

Arrange pancetta on jelly-roll pan. Bake at 475 degrees for 6 minutes or until crisp.

Combine lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle over pasta mixture; toss well to coat. Sprinkle with pine nuts, pancetta, and cheese.

My notes:  Pancetta is readily available in the deli section of most grocery stores now, but, in my experience, it can be expensive.  I wouldn't hesitate to substitute 2-3 strips of bacon in this recipe, and I doubt it would change the flavor.  Also, I love the meaty texture of the cavatappi pasta, but you could substitute any short pasta such as farfalle, rotelli, or rigatoni.  Adding the asparagus to the boiling pasta water during the last 3 minutes of cooking makes this dish especially appealing since it saves on the number of pots used to prepare it and makes for easy clean-up.

You could also substitute a different nut for the pine nuts if you like.  I toasted mine in my toaster oven, using the same instructions they give for a larger oven.  I did the pancetta in the toaster oven too.  I lined my pan with foil, and so there was no mess to clean up.  It sure saves on the splattery mess of cooking bacon or pancetta in a frying pan. 

When the pasta and asparagus were done, I drained it, then returned it to the cooking pot, as instructed, but I just dumped the rest of the ingredients into the same pot and stirred the whole thing up.  I didn't bother mixing the lemon juice, olive oil, etc., separately.  Another saved dish.

With asparagus coming into season, and therefore less expensive this time of year, this is a quick, easy, and delicious dish with easy clean-up.  Add a side salad or a crusty bread, and you have an entire meal with a minimum of fuss.  I hope you'll agree if you decide to give it a try.  Bonus:  it's low-fat and just 385 calories per serving. 

2 comments from clever and witty friends:

quiltzyx said...

Another one I just might try.

And that's saying a lot, since I'm not much into cooking!


WoolenSails said...

I do love asparagus, love eating it as a snack.