This dish makes a lot of a few ingredients – asparagus, pasta and crumbs – and is easy to throw together for a light meal.
The best size asparagus is medium-sized, not skinny jobs and not big fat ones either! Oh so fussy!
125ml (½ cup) extra virgin olive oil 30g (½ cup) fresh sourdough breadcrumbs Flaky sea salt Coarse sea salt for cooking asparagus and pasta 350g (about 12 ounces) asparagus, trimmed 400g (about 14 ounces) penne (or use linguine or fettuccine) 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed 2 tiny dried ‘bird’s eye‘ chillies, crushed Finely grated zest 1 lemon 3 Tbsp capers, drained, mopped in paper towels and chopped ½ cup loosely packed small mint leaves, torn into small pieces ¼ cup loosely packed young flat-leaf parsley sprigs, torn into small pieces Freshly grated parmesan cheese (optional)
1 Heat 2 tablespoons of the measured oil in a small frying pan (skillet) over medium heat and once it is hot add the breadcrumbs. Cook until they are golden and crisp, turning often. Transfer to a side plate lined with paper towels and sprinkle with sea salt.
2 Cook asparagus in gently boiling lightly salted water for about 7 minutes, or until tender (the asparagus must not be too crunchy in this dish). Drain, refresh with cold water, drain, then pat dry with paper towels. Cut into short lengths.
3 Cook the pasta in plenty of gently boiling well-salted water until al dente. While the pasta is cooking, put the garlic and chillies in a large pan (skillet) with the rest of the oil and warm gently over a low heat, so the garlic and chillies flavour the oil; don’t let the garlic fry.
4 Drain pasta and transfer it to the pan of heated oil with any clinging water (don’t shake it dry). Add lemon zest and capers, toss again, then add asparagus, mint and parsley. Toss then transfer to a heated bowl. Sprinkle with the crunchy crumbs and serve immediately.
Don’t bother making the crumbs if you only have ‘doughy white’ bread from the supermarket. Sour dough crumbs turn wonderfully crunchy and develop great flavour.
And check out other recipes using asparagus: