ASPARAGUS WITH RICOTTA OR CHEVRE AND FETTUCINE RECIPE
Fettucine con asparagi e ricotta Preparation - Easy
You can vary the vegetable in this springtime pasta - fresh young peas are delicious, as are small artichoke hearts or very tender young fava beans if you can find or grow them. Just be sure that the raw, prepared vegetable weighs about 3/4 pound - that is, shelled peas or fava beans, artichoke hearts trimmed down to their cooking size.
Most cooks will not be able to find wild fennel, but those in northern California and other parts of the country where this delightfully fragrant herb grows on the edge of highways and in abandoned lots should take the opportunity to use the green tops. Don't substitute fennel seeds or cultivated fennel - the flavor is too strong.
3/4 pound tender young asparagus (or other spring vegetable or tasty frozen vegetable
1 garlic clove, crushed with the flat blade of a knife
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons minced fresh mint
2 tablespoons minced fresh green wild fennel if available
1 pound fettuccinesalt to taste
4 T fresh creamy ricotta or mild goat cheese (chevre)
a little freshly grated nutmeg if desired
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup freshly grated young pecorino or Parmigiano cheese
Pasta pot, large frying or sauté pan.
TRIM off the tough ends of the asparagus stalks and cut the tender parts into 2-inch lengths.
IN a sauté pan, gently stew the garlic clove and asparagus in the oil until the vegetables are tender but not brown-about 15 minutes.
STIR in the mint and, if you can find it, the wild fennel. Set aside.
MEANWHILE, cook the pasta in lightly salted water.
AS the pasta cooks, extract about 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid and mix it in a small saucepan with the ricotta. Set the saucepan over low heat and gently cream the ricotta with the cooking liquid. when the ricotta is warm, taste and add salt and a little pepper. If you don't have wild fennel, add grated nutmeg if you wish to the cheese sauce.
DRAIN the pasta and combine immediately with the cheese sauce, tossing to mix well. Arrange on a warm platter and pour the asparagus, garlic, and oil over the top. Sprinkle a few tablespoons of grated cheese over and serve immediately, passing the rest of the grated cheese at the table.