Linguine with Asparagus and Pine Nuts

May 31, 2013

Yesterday was a big day: we ate our first asparagus of the season.

Although the Nicollet Mall Farmers Market in downtown Minneapolis started at the end of April, the produce selection at the beginning of the season is imported from warmer climes.  Buying tomatoes from Mexico and pineapples from Costa Rica at a Minnesota farmers market feels wrong on multiple levels.  So for the past month, I've spent my lunch hour on Thursdays strolling Nicollet Mall, eying the pineapples with disdain and eagerly awaiting the first Minnesota-grown arrival: asparagus.

Asparagus and rhubarb are the only vegetables (yes, rhubarb is technically a vegetable, despite a 1947 U.S. Customs Court ruling to the contrary) you have a chance of seeing in Minnesota before June.  Although my mom makes a downright delicious rhubarb cake and lovely rhubarb sauce, for me a little rhubarb goes a long way.  Asparagus, on the other hand, I can eat and eat and then eat some more.  I don't know that I can pick a favorite vegetable, but asparagus is in the top five.

So, imagine my delight when I spotted rows and rows of asparagus at the Untiedt's* stand last week.  I had foolishly neglected to bring my wallet, so I had to wait another week for my first Minnesota produce of the season.  I knew exactly which recipe to make with my haul: Asparagus with Linguine and Pine Nuts, which I found in Real Simple magazine a few years ago.  When made with fresh asparagus from the farmers market, dinner becomes something you'll look forward to all day, and the prospect of eating the leftovers for lunch makes going to work the next morning not all that bad.

Adapted from the Real Simple recipe by Sara Quessenberry

Ingredients:

Asparagus with Linguine and Pine Nuts
  • 12 ounces uncooked linguine
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch (about 1 pound) asparagus, trimmed** and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • shredded Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions, drain, and return to pot.

Meanwhile, heat a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add olive oil and tilt to evenly coat.  Add pine nuts and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until garlic turns light golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes.  Add asparagus and cook, stirring occasionally, until asparagus is crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.  Turn down heat to medium-low if necessary to prevent garlic from over browning.

Add asparagus mixture, salt, and pepper to drained pasta and toss.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese before serving.

Asparagus with Linguine and Pine Nuts

*In addition to having a presence at Minneapolis farmers markets and two dozen vegetable stands throughout the metro area, Untiedt's is also where we get our CSA.  They do a fabulous job, and they still have openings for the 2013 season!

**How to trim asparagus: bend the end of the asparagus stalk until it snaps.  Discard the woody root end.