Asparagus and White Bean Pasta

Just when I think I’m completely out of new, healthy, tasty ideas for the kitchen… spring happens. And with spring, comes asparagus.

Yes, I know there are a lot of spring vegetables: peas, new potatoes, baby zucchini, fava beans… but nothing gets me more excited than asparagus. I used to hate them, til I discovered roasting. Now I can easily eat a pound of roasted asparagus without flinching.

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I get excited about spring, maybe too excited. I love the change of all the seasons–I was raised in New York, where seasons are very distinct, and seeing as I’m easily bored, seasonal climates and I go well together. But there’s something about spring: the flowers, the shedding of one’s winter coat, the ease of wandering through the streets.

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I find myself discovering the neighborhood I’ve been living in since September with new eyes, now that I’m no longer shivering. I sometimes walk the hour-and-a-bit back from school–it may be six in the evening, but when the sun is out, it’s easy to convince myself it’s earlier. It reminds me of walks back from the Flatiron District last year, when I thought the move to New York was permanent, and even more of past springs in Paris, past wanderings, past discoveries.

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My newest discovery is the Parc Georges Brassens, named for the famous French singer, which is within spitting distance of our apartment. Apparently, the rest of my neighborhood already knew about this small park: when we decided to wander through it on one of the first sunny afternoons, people were already spread out with blankets and picnics, books or mp3 players, enjoying the sun and cool breeze in the way you only can when it’s the beginning of spring, before you expect it to be warmer or are sick of the humidity.

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The Country Boy likes to find a place to sit and enjoy the sun, but I’m much more of a wanderer–always have been. Paris’ parks, especially, are excellent places for wandering, with nooks and crannies carved out by trees, bushes and buildings. Everything seems to have historical significance, though I can’t keep all the names and dates straight. Instead, I just admire, snap a photo or two, and inhale the sweet smell of lilac and mulch and freshly cut grass.

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It’s not floral, but the smell of roasted asparagus is pretty springy in and of itself. When I get tired of slurping them up one by one, like healthy green french fries, I try to get creative, throwing a hodgepodge of spring ingredients into a bowl and seeing what happens.

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This is what happens.

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Asparagus, creamy white beans and fresh goat’s cheese (this is the season for it, after all), a bit of pesto, and dinner is on the table. I much prefer spending less time actively cooking at this time of year… more time to enjoy the slow and deliberate sunsets that are getting later with every passing day.

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Asparagus and White Bean Pasta

500 g. (1 pound) thin green asparagus, woody ends trimmed
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
150 g. (~5.5 ounces) uncooked penne
125 g. (~4.5 ounces) canned white beans, rinsed and drained
2 tbsp. prepared pesto sauce
60 g. (~2 ounces) goat cheese

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Cut the asparagus in thirds, and toss in a baking dish with the onion, olive oil and salt. Roast for 20 minutes, tossing once or twice, until browned.

When the asparagus is nearly cooked, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the penne according to package directions, then drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water.

Reduce the heat to low and return the pasta to the pot. Add the beans, pesto, goat cheese and asparagus, thinning the sauce with pasta water if needed. Serve immediately with freshly ground black pepper.

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