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Pasta Primavera with Asparagus

I have not been able to recall where this recipe originated although I seem to remember a New York city restaurant serving this as a signature dish.   Over the years I have modified it to suit my personal taste while retaining the original character and depth.  The asparagus puree makes this truly out of the ordinary.

1 pound fresh asparagus
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
˝ teaspoon dried basil
˝ pound mushrooms, sliced
1 cup water
1 cup heavy cream
1 pound linguini
1 cup pasta cooking water
˝ pound fresh pea pods (or 1/2C frozen)
˝ cup grated parmesan (plus extra for table)

salt and pepper to taste

Snap the tough ends off the asparagus and discard.  Trim off the tips and reserve leaving the stems.

Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat.  Add olive oil then the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds until aromatic. Add mushrooms and cook until softerned for about 5 minutes. Remove the mushrooms and any liquid from the pan and set aside.

Using the same pan add the water and cream, bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low and cook the asparagus stems for about 40 minutes until easily mashed with a fork. Place stems and some liquid in blender and whirr.  If it binds up add more liquid.  Place the resulting puree back in pan with remaining cream. Stir and set aside.

While the asparagus stems are simmering cook pasta al dente in four cups of water. Add asparagus tips and cook for 2 minutes. Remove 1 cup of pasta water then drain pasta and asparagus tips. Refresh under cold water.

Return asparagus puree to heat, add peas and mushrooms and simmer 2 minutes, or until pea pods are heated through, while thinning the puree with the reserved pasta water (if necessary) to obtain the desired consistency.   Add the cheese and combine well.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Re-heat pasta by running briefly under warm water and drain well. Plate the linguini topped with asparagus sauce and sprinkled with parmesan.


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