Pasta with Asparagus, Pancetta and Pine Nuts

As a seasonal cook, I fully realize it is way too early for this recipe. Asparagus is such a spring dish and the bright lemon and lack of a heavy sauce makes this perfect for warm weather. Perhaps making this dish is my way of having some wishful thinking, since it is only early March.

However, this recipe will certainly be in my list of “light, warm-weather pastas.” I envision eating it with a light, crisp glass of white wine, sitting on my back patio in the warm evening. This time we had it inside on a Thursday night while watching TV, but hopefully it a month or two, we can give this dish the ambiance it deserves.

Thanks to Cooking Light for this one – they have had a lot of great recipes lately. Once thing to note, a lot of recipes have me scratching my head – how is this cooking light? Take a minute and read the serving size and it will all be made clear to you. The challenge is always adhering to it, of course!

SIDE NOTE: This was the first time I had ever baked pancetta, and oh my goodness – it gets extra crispy and has a concentrated flavor! You could always throw it on the stove with oil, if you wanted, but I recommend giving the oven a try.

PASTA WITH ASPARAGUS AND PINE NUTS
4 Servings

8 ounces uncooked cavatappi pasta
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut diagonally into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 teaspoon minced garlic
3 tablespoons pine nuts
2 ounces diced pancetta
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup (1 ounce) crumbled Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Preheat oven to 400°.

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; add asparagus to pan during last 3 minutes of cooking. Drain. Sprinkle pasta mixture with garlic; return to pan, and toss well.

Arrange pine nuts in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan. Bake at 400° for 3 minutes or until golden and fragrant, stirring occasionally. Place in a small bowl.

Increase oven temperature to 475°.

Arrange pancetta on jelly-roll pan. Bake at 475° for 6 minutes or until crisp.

Combine lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle over pasta mixture; toss well to coat. Sprinkle with pine nuts, pancetta, and cheese.

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