I really am not one for asparagus, sausage, or pine nuts for that matter. BUT! This is a must try if you feel your creative culinary juices flowing. This dish was a first on so many levels for me. First time with pine nuts, ricotta cheese, asparagus, and parmigiano-reggiano cheese. Yup. Can't say I've ever used that combo before. Or those ingredients for that matter...
Here is the recipe:
START TO FINISH: 40 min
2 bunches small or medium asparagus or 8 oz. broccoli florets
1 lb. rotini or fusilli
1/2 cup pine nuts (optional)
1 lb. bulk Italian sausage
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1/3 cup whipping cream
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup sheep's milk or whole milk ricotta
Freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
10 fresh basil leaves
Ricotta cheese (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 325'F. Bring a large pot of water with 1 tablespoon of salt to boiling. Cut top 2 inches from asparagus stalks (reserve asparagus stalks for another use,... see "What About the Stalks," below.)
Cook asparagus tips or broccoli in the boiling water for 3 to 4 minutes just until tender. Transfer to colander using a large skimmer or long-handled strainer then rinse under cold running water to stop the cooking.
2. Bring asparagus cooking water back to boiling. Add pasta and cook according to package directions just until tender to the bite (al dente). While pasta is cooking, spread pine nuts on a baking sheet and back about 10 minutes or until the pine nuts are golden.
3. Meanwhile, in large skillet cook sausage and onion until meat is browned and onion is tender; drain fat. Add asparagus tips or broccoli, all but 1 Tbsp. of the pine nuts, the cream, and salt; simmer 2 minutes. When pasta is almost done, use a skimmer or long-handled strainer to transfer to skillet, reserving cooking water. Add ricotta, plenty of freshly ground black pepper, and about 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. increase heat to high; toss until pasta is well coated, about 30 seconds. Add Parmigiano and toss again. Transfer to platter; top with reserved pine nuts and basil. Serve with additional ricotta. Makes 6 servings.
EACH SERVING 701 cal, 36 g fat, 101 mg chol, 1,149 mg sodium 63 g carb, 4 g fiber, 29 g pro.
What About the Stalks?
This recipe calls for the tips only of the asparagus, so I used the leftover stalks for a side dish. Cut stalks in 2-inch pieces, cook in lightly salted water just until they turn bright green, drain, then transfer to a baking dish. Drizzle with a little melted butter, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, and bake at 450'F for 6 to 8 minutes until cheese is crusty and browned.
I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. Oh, and if you end up making it, please don't drown it in basil like I apparently did. Poor pasta never had a chance.... tsk tsk tsk.
This recipe was adapted from the book, Donatella Cooks by Donatella Arpaia.