Here is another one of my favourite Spring recipes this time using asparagus in a thyme infused Carbonara sauce with pasta garnished with crisp Prosciutto. Obviously, if you don’t add the Prosciutto it makes a great vegetarian dish. Use good quality Penne Rigate (dry penne pasta with ridges) to hold the creamy asparagus sauce. My favourite dry pasta brand is Rustichella d’Abruzzo. Our Carbonara sauces are inspired by our dining on simple lunches at ‘small back street piazza’ restaurants (read ‘not in crowded tourist locations’) in Venice when travelling with my family. Cool Italian Pinot Grigio from Friuli with its fruity fragrant palate and hints of almond accompanies this dish perfectly. Enjoy cooking this easy dish and take pleasure in perfect Spring days. Buon appetito! Sylvia x
INGREDIENTS Serves 4
160g quality Penne Rigate pasta
240g fresh local/Tasmanian asparagus
2 small cloves garlic minced
2-3 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves chopped
1 Tablespoon olive oil, small knob of butter
6 egg yolks
60-80ml pure cream (35% fat content)
Salt, freshly ground black pepper, grated nutmeg
3-4 Tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan (preferably a mix of Grana Padano and Parmigiano Reggiano)
4-6 thin slices Prosciutto
Preheat oven 150°C
- Place the Prosciutto slices on a baking tray lined with baking paper and into a preheated oven to crisp for approx.10-15 minutes. Remove from oven to cool. Crumble and set aside.
- Prepare the asparagus by snapping off the tough ends. Cut off the tips and set aside. Slice each spear on the diagonal into approx. 2.5cm lengths.
- Blanch tips and spears in boiling salted water for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Drain and rinse under cold water.
- Whisk egg yolks with cream and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Add about 2 Tablespoons grated Parmesan. Whisk in.
- Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a generous amount of boiling salted water until al dente.
- In a medium non-stick frypan heat the olive oil and butter on medium heat. Add garlic and thyme leaves. Quickly cook but don’t colour the garlic. Add drained asparagus. Gently fry the asparagus mixing it with the garlic and thyme.
- Add the cooked pasta to the frypan. Stir well to combine with flavours in the frypan.
- Take the frypan off the heat. Add the egg mixture. Place back onto very low heat. Gently stir to coat each pasta piece with egg mixture. The heat from the pasta will also cook the egg slightly. Once the egg mixture has turned to a thick smooth cream consistency, remove from the heat.
- Do not allow the egg mixture to scramble! To gain the beautiful silky texture of an authentic Carbonara takes a little practice but you will perfect it in no time.
- Serve immediately with remaining grated Parmesan. Garnish with crisp Prosciutto if using and thyme flowers. Accompany with freshly steamed vegetables or a cool crisp spring salad. Buona!
Buying and Storing Asparagus
When buying asparagus look for firm buds that are tightly closed with a crisp, unblemished and moist looking stem. Store asparagus by cutting a little off the base of the stem, place in a vase or glass with approx. 2cm water. Cover with a small plastic bag and put in the fridge. Change the water every day or so ensuring the buds are not wet and they will keep fresh for about 3-4 days. Alternatively, wrap a wet paper towel around the base of the asparagus and place in a loose fitting plastic bag and pop it into the fridge.