Asparagus lends the flavor of spring to pasta

Kate Lawson
The Detroit News

One of my first spring cleaning jobs is to tackle the fridge. For months I was like a squirrel out foraging in the markets for fresh vegetables, meats and cheeses to keep us sustained. I know that when I can no longer close the crisper drawer that it’s time for an assessment and a purge. Limp, mushy celery is usually the first to go and carrots that are wizened and sprouting join them in the compost. Sometimes I pull something out that I have no idea of its former self — parsley? cilantro?

But one vegetable that is consumed within a day of purchase is asparagus. That’s because these lovely stalks are delightful when simply roasted and equally fantastic when they become part of a pasta dish pumped up with some prosciutto (which I always have on hand) and blue cheese. Every so often, I like to switch up the pasta, sometimes using farfalle (bow tie) or orecchiette (little ears), penne or wagon wheels.

This meal comes together in minutes and makes a perfect mid-week meal. I don’t even have to serve a salad because the green comes shining through.

Pasta with Asparagus and Prosciutto

Serves 4

Kosher salt

1/2 cup diced prosciutto (about 3 1/2 ounces)

1 clove garlic, chopped

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

1/2 cup dry white wine

Freshly ground pepper

1 cup heavy cream

12 ounces penne or any shaped pasta

1 1/2 pounds asparagus, tough ends trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese, plus more for topping

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the prosciutto in a large skillet over medium-high heat until it renders some fat and begins to brown, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and cook until the garlic just begins to soften, about 30 seconds. Remove the skillet from the heat and add the wine. Return to the heat and cook until the wine evaporates slightly, about 2 more minutes. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Add the cream and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens slightly, about 3 more minutes.

Meanwhile, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook as the label directs, adding the asparagus during the last minute of cooking. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain the pasta and asparagus.

Add the cheese to the cream sauce and stir to combine. Add the pasta and asparagus and toss to coat, adding some of the reserved cooking water to loosen, if needed. Season with salt and pepper. Divide among bowls and top with more cheese.

Per serving: 651 calories; 29 g fat ( 16 g saturated; 40 percent calories from fat); 68 g carbohydrates; 111 mg cholesterol; 915 mg sodium; 23 g protein; 3 g fiber