After weeks of anticipating locally-grown asparagus season, I am proud to announce our first harvest has arrived in the Country Store in Belleville! And thanks to a free night at home, our family enjoyed our first taste of the season.
Homegrown asparagus signifies the long-awaited start to homegrown harvest here in Southern Illinois and that is why our staff and regular customers look forward to seeing it arrive in our store so much. I try to prepare it as often as I can in during its all to brief eight week season.
Usually, I prepare asparagus by roasting it in the oven with a little olive oil to coat and a few sprinkles of kosher salt. In fact, my seven-year old son helps prepare it by snapping the ends off of the asparagus and rolling them in a little olive oil on sheet pan. After 10-12 minutes in a 400 degree oven, the asparagus is still crisp but tender to the prongs of a fork and ready to serve.
Sometimes when time allows, I get a bit fancier, like last night, when I made bow-tie pasta dressed in a creamy cheese sauce with earthy mushrooms, toasted walnuts, locally-raised bacon and crisp asparagus. I used baby bella mushrooms, also called porcini mushrooms in this recipe. Mushrooms and asparagus are truly a flavor match made in heaven and if you are lucky enough to have a source, you could really knock this recipe out of the park by using morel mushrooms!
Italian mascarpone makes this sauce outstanding and easy to prepare but if you have trouble finding it, here is substitution option: 8 oz of cream cheese, 2 tablespoons of sour cream and 2 tablespoons of heavy whipping cream.
To see this dish prepared step-by-step, catch me on Show-Me St. Louis on Thursday, April 16th at 10am.
- 1 lb. uncooked farfalle pasta
- 1 cup reserved hot pasta water
- 3 Tbs. unsalted butter
- 1 lb. cremini mushrooms or morel mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
- 1 lb. thin asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 cup mascarpone cheese
- Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- ¾ cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped, divided
- 4-5 slices of cooked bacon, fat drained and coarsely chopped
- Freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ to ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Add the pasta to a pot of boiling water and cook. Stir often to prevent the pasta from sticking together, until tender but still firm to the bite, about 12 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the hot pasta liquid. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté until they are tender and most of their juices have evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add the asparagus and sauté until it is crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the mascarpone and nutmeg. Add the cooked pasta and toss until the cheese coats the pasta, adding the reserved cooking liquid ¼ cup at a time to moisten. Stir in ½ cup of the walnuts and the chopped bacon. Season the pasta to taste with salt and pepper. Mound the pasta in a large, wide serving bowl. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and remaining ¼ cup of walnuts and serve. Makes 4 servings.