Weeknight Cooking: Penne with Asparagus, Sage & Peas

You may have seen this one on the April 2009 cover of Food & Wine Magazine. Unless you’re smart, unlike myself, and just got it for free from the website.

F&W Penne with Asparagus, Sage & Peas

My subscription hasn’t yet run out and, like I said a couple of weeks ago, when it does I won’t be renewing. Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? That savings will be more money that I can spend on a bazillion Cook’s Illustrated products. Did I tell you that I got a subscription to the CI website? Well, I did. I’ve only used it for one thing, but I’ll definitely pull more out of there later.

I’ve been doing a lot of Food & Wine stuff lately because they have a lot of delicious and simple meals that I can make on a weeknight. Lately, my kitchen has hit a hot streak with their dishes — over the last couple of weeks everything F&W I’ve made has been good. This one made me want to throw a dinner party just so I could show it off.

Penne with Asparagus, Sage and Peas
Courtesy of Food & Wine

1/2 pound penne
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound thick asparagus, cut into 1-inch lengths
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups (10 ounces) shelled English peas or frozen baby peas, thawed
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the penne and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and asparagus and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is fragrant, about 3 minutes.

Sauteeing Asparagus & Garlic

Add the stock and boil over high heat until reduced by half and the asparagus are tender, about 5 minutes.

You may laugh, but I use my microwave timer whenever I see anything that says “cook for about X minutes.” The reason I do that is because I can often get distracted with other things and, before I know it, twenty minutes have passed and I’ve overcooked the food. If you’re like me, don’t be afraid to use timers.

Add the peas and cream to the skillet and boil over high heat until the sauce has thickened, 3 minutes.

Blurry... Next stop, the Twilight Zone!
Sorry, it’s a little blurry.

Stir in the penne and cook until heated through. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter, sage and the 1/2 cup of cheese.

Adding Cheese & Butter

Yes, it does taste as delicious as it looks. The butter is the key.

Taste this before you season it. If you seasoned your spaghetti water enough, you won’t need a lot of salt in this, because the spaghetti will have a lot. Then, season with salt and pepper. Transfer the pasta to bowls and serve right away, passing additional cheese at the table.

Penne with Asparagus, Sage & Peas

Among us carnivores, there’s a misconception that if a dish doesn’t have meat in it, then it won’t be filling — we’ll need more food, there won’t be enough, oh my God we’re going to starve. That isn’t the case with this dish at all. Between the cheese and the pasta and all of the delicious vegetables (and the small side of garlic bread I served this with) there was more than enough food. I cut the above recipe in half to serve for two people, and we were stuffed by the time we were done.

The vegetables were delicious, the broth with the splash of cream was perfect. Although there wasn’t a lot of cream, the cheese and butter really upped the ante on the richness of the taste. For such a simple little dish, this was elegant and tasty — and fast. This gets full marks, even for an overall dish. If I was served this at a restaurant, I’d be happy with it. I’d go so far as to say, if I could create a weeknight dinner list for Citizen Chef, I’d put this on it. That’s how good it was.

As a weeknight cooking dish, I was also pleased with it. Not only was it quick and delicious, but it used up a lot of other ingredients that I have added to my “go to” list of meals:

Asparagus: also used in Stir-Fried Vegetables with Lemongrass
Peas & cream: Angel Hair Pasta with Peas, Prosciutto & Lemon

So I know these ingredients won’t go bad in my fridge; I’ll be able to make something else that can use them.

Weeknight Cooking: A
Overall Dish: A

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