I’ve pretty much just given the recipe away in the title – asparagus, tomatoes and cheese! This S/S recipe is really that simple: the tail end of spring married with the best of summer. And pasta!
Okay, it’s a bit more involved than that, but it still is a near-instant meal: perfect for a midweek supper.
Read on for the recipe, including the perky little herbaceous oil that is more than the sum of its parts.
This recipe is inspired by what is happening in my part of the world – produce-wise and in the woods behind my house.
Until a few week’s ago I didn’t know that asparagus was commercially grown down the road from me. As in less than three miles away. That fairly blew me away. Being somewhat gnarled and rough-edged, bunches of this particular example of spring’s quintessential vegetable will never make an appearance in the supermarket, but it was gorgeous to eat. Unfortunately I didn’t make it last long enough to use it in these photographs, but it did certainly inspire me to keep this recipe simple and to the point. Good produce needs little to make it sing.
Wild garlic is another taste of spring that many of us get excited about, with the added bonus that – unlike asparagus – it can be free. I know some of you, maybe most of you, will need to buy it from farm shops, but it is freely available if you live near woods or shady streams. It is pretty rampant stuff so it should be cheap to buy. I have a friend who has to pull most of it out by the roots and dump it in the compost heap, so prolific and invasive does it grow in her garden.
The season is coming to an end here, and is perhaps gone for the year where you are, so take a completely different tack with this recipe and use fresh basil if you like. I’ll miss the pungent smell as I walk in the woods, but it’s short-lived availability – as with asparagus – is one reason I love it so much. Besides, there is so much else in the garden, woods and farm shops to look forward to.
What summer vegetables are you looking forward to harvesting or buying? Are you still picking wild garlic where you are?
Asparagus, Tomato and Preserved Lemon Ricotta Pasta
This is a flexible and forgiving recipe, so make adjustments as you see fit. The only thing I feel compelled to add is that due to its inherent simplicity, you really need to use the best produce and pasta that you can get for this recipe: ripe, flavoursome tomatoes (stored on the kitchen counter, NOT in the fridge), ramrod-straight soldiers of asparagus rather than limp stuff, and quality pasta. Oh, and vegans: use vegan soft cheese, cashew ricotta or similar. xx
Enough pasta* for 2 – about 150g
2 tsp salt, for the pasta water
100g fresh ricotta (use vegan soft cheese or cashew ricotta if liked)
1/2 preserved lemon, finely minced (if very salty, just use the skin and discard the inside)
1/2 bundle of fresh asparagus, woody ends snapped off and discarded
180-200g best tomatoes
Lemon, to serve
Wild garlic flowers, to serve – optional
Wild Garlic Oil
4-6 large leaves of wild garlic
Three-finger pinch of flaky salt
50ml best olive oil
* any pasta shape and type (e.g. gluten-free, durum wheat, buckwheat etc) will be fine
** if you don’t have preserved lemon (here is my preserved lemon recipe – but it takes two weeks to be ready!) Belazu brand is a good bet here in the UK
Special equipment: pestle and mortar
1. Boil a large pan of water, add the salt and the pasta. Cook according to packet directions. Add the asparagus when the pasta is four minutes from done.
2. Meanwhile, tear the wild garlic into pieces and add it to the mortar along with the salt. Crush with the pestle until the wild garlic breaks down; gradually add in the oil and pound until it comes together/emulsifies. Add a little of the lemon juice if you like. Set aside.
3. Cut the tomatoes into wedges or in half, depending on size. Set aside.
4. Put the ricotta into a small bowl and mix in the minced preserved lemon. Mix well. Taste and add a little lemon juice, as needed.
5. When the pasta and asparagus are finished, drain well and carefully pull out the asparagus and pop them into a bowl of iced water for 15 seconds: this preserves the bright green colour and stops the cooking process.
6. Now it is just an assembly job. You can either toss the ricotta into the pasta, serve into two bowl and top with the rest of the ingredients or, as I have done, make little quenelles (fancy blobs!) to dot over the pasta. Sprinkle over any wild garlic flowers – they are delicious in their own right.
Variation: of you aren’t using preserved lemon, you can afford to go a bit more salty with snips of sun-dried tomatoes and slivers of olive; lovely with spiralised courgette/zucchini too (see below). Briefly cooked baby broad beans would also be a nice addition to this dish.
** If you are reading this from the website Easy Low Cal Recipes, this is published without my permission – as are all other posts of mine on this site. **
Wild Garlic and Asparagus Recipes From Others