Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Browned Butter and Asparagus Pasta with a Side of Disney

So I watched Snow White today.  It's funny how as a kid you don't necessarily realize how creepy cartoons can be.  I hadn't seen the movie in probably 15 years, so I didn't remember some of the details.  Like how when Snow White is running through the forest (after the huntsman realizes he can't follow the Queen's orders and bring Snow White's freakin' heart back in a box) and appears to have an acid trip.  How else do you explain the trees coming to life and logs turning into alligators?  Then at the end the Queen, disguised as a hag, falls to her death and is crushed by a boulder.  And on top of that, the vultures who had been following her circle around where she went down, presumably to snack on her carcass.  How is this a kid's movie?!

Doesn't that get your appetite goin'?!  Well forget about creepy children's movies and focus on an easy weeknight pasta dish.

Ziti.  Asparagus.  Browned butter.  Goat cheese.  These are all vital to my existence.  All in one dish?  I die.  Which is a little....ironic.  P.S. Does anyone else like The Rachel Zoe Project?  Bananas.

Like I said, this is a super duper easy meal.  Perfect for a weeknight when you don't want to spend too long in the kitchen but don't want take-out.

Your pasta of choice (ziti rigati in this case), butter, asparagus, goat cheese, and red pepper flakes.  You'll need olive oil, which isn't pictured because I didn't think about it.  You don't need those sun-dried tomatoes in the picture because I ended up not wanting them.  Mentally replace them with olive oil.

Start by prepping your asparagus.  Snap off the woody ends and cut the remaining pieces in half.

Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper over the asparagus on a tinfoil-lined baking sheet.  I like to roll them around a bit to get them good and coated.  Stick 'em in a 400º oven until they get a little browned and the tips get crispy looking.  While you're at it, boil the water for the pasta and cook until al dente.

Heat a little oil in a pan with some red pepper flakes.  You can adjust the amount according to your heat preferences.  We're basically infusing the olive oil with the red pepper heat and flavor.  

When you've drained the pasta, put it in a medium to large-ish bowl.  It all depends on how much pasta you use.  I had less than a pound of asparagus and ended up using probably 1/3 pound of pasta.  When the asparagus is crispy, put it in the bowl with the pasta.  You can go ahead and toss the red pepper olive oil in there as well.

Ok, so now we're on to the browned butter stage of the dish.  You don't have to wait until all the other stuff is done to brown the butter.  It's just easier for me to show it in stages.  I would start the butter before the asparagus comes out of the oven.  Basically just heat a 1/3 stick of butter over medium-low heat.

It'll melt and be a lovely yellow color.  Keep and eye on it because butter can burn rather quickly.

After a few minutes you'll see little browned bits in the bottom and the butter will take on a lovely nutty aroma.  No joke.  Take it off the heat, and don't let it sit in the pan for too long or it'll burn.  Toss the pasta-asparagus mixture with the browned butter.

Finish it off with some goat cheese!  The butter gives it a nuttiness, the goat cheese is creamy and tangy, and the asparagus is just yummy.  It's a nice veggie for this dish.  The best thing about it is probably its versatility.  Wanna make it healthier?  Steam the asparagus and cut down on the butter.  Don't like goat cheese?  Swap it out for parmesan.  It'd be a cinch to work out the ratios for a larger group.  Make it your own, but above all, just make it.

Browned Butter and Asparagus Pasta (serves 3-4)

Approx. 1 lb of asparagus
Salt and pepper
1/3 lb pasta (ziti, rigatoni, etc)
2 tbs olive oil plus more for drizzling
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
1/3 stick butter
Goat cheese for sprinkling
  • Preheat oven to 400º.  Snap woody ends off asparagus and cut in half.  Line a baking sheet with tinfoil and spread asparagus over foil.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast in oven until browned on bottom and tips are crispy.
  • Boil water for pasta.  When water reaches a rolling boil, add pasta and salt the water.  Cook until al dente.  Drain and transfer to a medium bowl.
  • Heat 2 tbs olive oil over medium-low heat with red pepper flakes to infuse oil.
  • Melt butter over medium-low heat until browned and begins to smell nutty.  Take off the heat so as not to burn.
  • Toss pasta with asparagus, red pepper olive oil, and browned butter.  Serve warm and sprinkle with goat cheese.

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