Spring has officially sprung.
And asparagus is everywhere 🙂
Did you know that asparagus is actually the young shoot of a plant?
The asparagus spears pop out of the ground in late March / early April, as spring first arrives.
Once they are of sufficient height and thickness, the farmers simply chop them off at the base, package them into bundles, and ship them off to the store/farmers market. They are only in peak season for a few delicious weeks, so get them while the gettin is good!
If you let the asparagus spears grow into mature plants, they turn into massive fern-like bushes that can be really beautiful in the garden 🙂
Tender asparagus goes great with creamy delicate creme fraiche.
Creme fraiche [pronounced krem-fresh] is a thick and tangy French cream, similar to sour cream, but with a little less tang and slightly higher fat content. The extra fat allows it to melt into a luscious sauce & coat your pasta nicely.
Depending where you live, it can be hard to find (or expensive), so in a pinch, you can either make your own the night before using heavy cream and buttermilk, OR use a mixture of sour cream and heavy cream. The sour cream is slightly more tangy (which I happen to like), and has a little less fat. Adding some heavy cream makes it a little more luxurious and mellows out the tang, getting you pretty darn close to creme fraiche.
In this pasta, tender asparagus is sautéed in white wine and garlic, then tossed with pasta in a creamy tangy sauce with lemon, fresh herbs, and a sprinkle of crispy breadcrumbs.
The flavors are luscious, and I love how the crispy breadcrumbs offset the tenderness of the rest of the dish. It’s super yummy and decadent, so I totally recommend serving with a simple side salad to add more veggies & fiber, and enjoy a simple dessert of sliced fresh fruit. (Hint Hint: local strawberries are in season!) Enjoy.
- 2 slices sourdough sandwich bread (my favorite is San Luis Sourdough) (OR 1/2 packaged bread crumbs)
- 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- sprinkle of salt and pepper
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 4 large shallots, peeled, halved, and thinly sliced
- 2 bunches thin asparagus, tips cut off and reserved, stems cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
- 4 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 1 lb dried linguine pasta
- 1 1/4 cup creme fraiche (or 3/4 cup sour cream + 1/2 cup heavy cream)
- 3 tablespoons snipped chives
- 3 tablespoons minced parsley
- 2 tablespoons minced lemon verbena (or tarragon)
- Zest of 1/2 lemon
- 2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1/2 tablespoon flaky sea salt (less, maybe 3/4 teaspoon, if you are using regular salt)
- 1/2 tablespoon ground black pepper
Rip up the bread and place it in a mini food processor. Pulse until the bread is a fine crumb. (Skip this step if you are using pre-made or store bought bread crumbs).
Place 2 tablespoons butter or oil in a small skillet and warm over medium heat. Once melted, add 1 cup of the fresh bread crumbs (or 1/2 cup if you are using packaged bread crumbs) to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the bread crumbs are golden and crisp. Turn off the heat and stir in the garlic powder and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Set aside for later.
Add 6 tablespoons (1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons) of oil to a large deep skillet and warm over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and just starting to turn golden, about 8-10 minutes.
Add the asparagus stems (NOT the tips), garlic, and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 or 2 minutes until bright green & not quite yet tender. Add the wine and vinegar & cook until evaporated, a few minutes longer. Add the asparagus tips & cook for just a minute or so, until bright green & crisp tender. Turn off the heat and set pan aside for later.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the linguine. Cook according to package directions until al dente. RESERVE 1/2 cup pasta water, then drain and add the pasta to the pan with the asparagus. Stir in the creme fraiche, chives, parsley, lemon verbena, lemon zest, parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper. Toss until well combined, adding reserved pasta water as needed to thin into a creamy sauce. Sprinkle with the garlic breadcrumbs and serve immediately.