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 brands are Rustichella d’Abruzzo or Maestri.
My 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, cooking, eating and drinking with my family in Italy. Cool Italian Pinot Grigio from Friuli (north east Italy) with its fruity fragrant palate and hints of almond accompanies this dish perfectly or try a fresh fruity Tassie Pinot Noir. 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
4 egg yolks
80ml pure cream (35% fat content)
Salt, freshly ground black pepper, grated nutmeg
5 Tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan (preferably a mix of Grana Padano and Parmigiano Reggiano) and extra for serving
4-6 thin slices Prosciutto (optional)
Preheat oven 150°C
- Place the Prosciutto slices on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Place 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 bud tips to approx. 2.5cm and set aside. Slice each spear on the diagonal into approx. 2.5cm lengths.
- Blanch tips and spears in boiling salted water for about 30 seconds. Drain and rinse under cold water.
- Whisk egg yolks with cream and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Add the 5 Tablespoons of 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 the flavours.
- 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 creamy 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 extra grated Parmesan. Garnish with crisp Prosciutto, if using, and thyme flowers. Accompany with freshly steamed vegetables or a cool crisp spring salad. Buona!
Tips on Buying and Storing Asparagus
When buying asparagus, look for firm buds that are tightly closed with a crisp unblemished and moist looking fresh green stem.
Store asparagus by cutting about 1cm off the base of the stem. Place in a vase or glass with about 2cm water. Cover with a loose fitting plastic produce bag and place in the fridge. Change the water every two days ensuring the bud tips are not wet. Asparagus stored like this will keep fresh for approx. 3-4 days.
Alternatively, cut about 1cm off the base of the stem. Wrap a wet paper towel around the base of the asparagus. Place the asparagus into a loose fitting plastic produce bag. Pop them into the fridge. From time to time check that the bud tips are not wet and keep the paper towel moist. Stored like this your asparagus will keep well for approx. 3-4 days.