The key to this recipe is finding fresh veggies as the dish is designed to feature them; consequently the sauce is very mild. Although subtle, the white wine-vegetable broth combination is flavorful and hearty, and eliminates the need for heavy cream or butter to create richness.
Another secret ingredient is the sage, which provides a wonderful earthy tone against the sweet asparagus and peas. This recipe can be treated like a primavera, so feel free to use whatever vegetables you want: I added mushrooms, onions and olives to mine too. Of course, I used whole wheat pasta, and added in chickpeas for a protein boost. Cannellini beans would taste great too. Finish with a generous sprinkle of chopped parsley and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and you can almost taste the blooming flowers and budding trees in the first bite.
Yield: 4 servings
1/2 pound whole wheat penne
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound thick asparagus, cut into 1-inch lengths
1/4 cup sliced onion/scallions, or 2 shallots, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock
2 cups English peas (10 ounces shelled) or frozen baby peas, thawed
1/2 cup canned garbanzo or cannellini beans
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving (fat-free feta works too)
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Optional: 1/3 cup mushrooms, artichokes, or other desired vegetables; 1/4 cup sliced black olives; hot red pepper to garnish
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the penne and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. (this is very important because the pasta will finish cooking in the pan.) Drain.
2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and onion/shallot and cook for 3 minutes. Add asparagus and all other optional vegetables except the peas and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the wine, peas and beans and increase heat to medium-high and simmer until liquid is reduced to a glaze, about 3 minutes. Add broth and bring to a simmer.
3. Add the pasta to the skillet and cook over low heat with the vegetables, stirring frequently with the top off, until the sauce has reduced; about 3 minutes.
4. Toss with salt & pepper to taste, grated cheese, parsley, and hot red pepper flakes (if desired). Serve immediately with extra cheese for sprinkling on the side.
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