Last Thursday at work was a busy day and I didn’t have the chance to get out of the office. In the back of my mind I had one ingredient on my mind, parmigiano-reggiano. In order to make the dinner I had planned for the evening I had to pick some up. And I wasn’t quite sure how that was going to happen with leaving work at 4:30 and needing to pick up L by 4:45.
Then I had an idea. I texted the owner of the completely charming Italian cafe in my building, GAVI Cafe. ‘Do you stock fresh parmigiano-reggiano and if so can I please buy a chunk?’ Unfortunately her response was ‘no’ but then my day turned around. As she has just gotten back from Italy (I know – swoon!) she had brought home a very large piece fresh from the source itself. And she offered me some to pick up on my way home…!
Wow. Not only did I avoid a trip to the grocery store but I was getting parmigiano-reggiano straight from Italy! The foodie within could not have been more excited to try it out. As she sliced me a rather large piece and offered some that fell apart in the meantime I was in love. It slooowly melted in my mouth and was better than I could ever have imagined. Yes, definitely not what I’d find running into Trader Joe’s. I will never be the same.
I knew a recipe worthy of such a piece of parmigiano-reggiano needed to be featured that night. Fortunately I had just the trick up my sleeve. This penne dish is ‘jaw-droppingly’ delicious on it’s own. Topped with the fresh cheese from the heart of Italy and we were in heaven.
‘Jaw Droppingly’ Delicious Asparagus Penne’
Recipe Adapted from Rachael Ray
- 1 lbs thin asparagus, trimmed of ends
- 1 lbs whole wheat penne pasta
- 1 TBS olive oil
- 2 TBS butter
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 2 TBS flour
- 3/4 cup vegetable or chicken stock
- 3/4 cup half & half
- 2 TBS Dijon mustard
- 2 tsp grated lemon zest
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2 TBS freshly chopped tarragon (if this isn’t your herb, cut it back a bit)
- juice of 1 lemon
- grated parmigiano-reggiano, the best you can find
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt the water. Drop the asparagus in for 2 minutes then remove from the water and chop into 2 inch pieces. Set aside. Add the pasta to the water and cook to al dente.
To a large skillet placed over medium heat, add the olive oil and butter. Gently saute the garlic for a minute or so then sprinkle in the flour and cook for another minute, stirring. Whisk in the stock, half & half, mustard and lemon zest. Season the sauce with salt, pepper, and tarragon, and cook for 2-3 minutes to thicken. Add the lemon juice, and gently toss the asparagus and pasta with the sauce to coat.
Turn off the heat and adjust the salt&pepper to taste then top with the grated cheese and serve.