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Creamy Pasta with Asparagus

Committee meeting working lunch, 4/19/12; Community training dinner and demonstration 4/23/12

Note: the longer this pasta sits, the clumpier it gets. But it's delicious at any time and temperature.

Adapted from Bon Appetit
Total time to make this recipe: only what it takes to boil the water, make the pasta, and stir. You can use whatever fresh seasonal vegetables are available in this recipe. Asparagus is great, but so are peas, green beans, zucchini, spinach, or anything else you have. Boiling times will vary for different vegetables, so you may need to add them to the pasta earlier or later. Zucchini and spinach can go in raw with the hot pasta.

  • Salt
  • 1 pound pasta, medium-sized shape like rotini, penne, or medium shells
  • 1 pound asparagus (or substitute another fresh, seasonal vegetable – see note above)
  • 5 oz cream cheese (or use ⅓-less-fat cream cheese [called neufchatel cheese] or goat cheese, if available)
  • ¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (you can substitute melted butter, if needed)
  • 1 lemon, zest (grated peel, yellow only – no white part, which is bitter) and 1 tablespoon juice
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil, dill, or tarragon
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper, preferably freshly ground

Set a large pot of salted water on the stove and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, prepare the asparagus: snap off the bottoms of the stalks (they are tough, so just break off about 1-2 inches – it should snap naturally). Discard the bottoms, or save them for the next time you are making a chicken or vegetable stock. Chop the stalks into 1-2 inch pieces, about the same size as your pasta shape. If using another vegetable, cut it into bite-sized pieces.

When the water comes to a boil, add your pasta. Set a timer for 3 minutes less than the cooking time suggested on the package. While pasta cooks, prepare the sauce: in a large bowl, place the cream cheese, parmesan cheese, lemon zest and juice, chopped herb (basil, dill, or tarragon), and black pepper.

When timer goes off, add the chopped asparagus to the pasta and reset the timer for 2-3 minutes. Use a ladle or measuring cup to remove ½ cup of the pasta water, and add this hot pasta water to the sauce ingredients in the bowl. Whisk everything together to make as smooth a sauce as you can (some lumps are fine – the hot pasta will melt them).

When the pasta and the asparagus are tender (taste them to make sure), drain them together. Add the hot pasta and asparagus to the bowl with the sauce. Toss or stir to coat evenly. Taste, and add additional salt and pepper if needed.

Serves 6-8.

Green Salad with Roasted Root Vegetables

Community meeting/training dinner, 2/27/12 – served as spinach salad with roasted carrots, toasted walnuts, and apple-mustard vinaigrette

Committee meeting working lunch, 2/23/12 – served as spinach salad with roasted carrots and parsnips, toasted walnuts, and orange-balsamic vinaigrette

Community meeting/training dinner and cooking demonstration, 12/15/11 – served as Kale Salad with Butternut Squash, Squash Seeds, and Apple-Mustard Dressing

spinach salad with roasted carrots, toasted walnuts, and apple-mustard vinaigrette

This salad can be adapted for many different ingredients, and you can treat it as a mix-and-match. Choose a greens, vegetables, toppings, and dressing to make a salad the way you like it.

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