Asparagus & Walnuts in a Gorgonzola Brown Butter Pasta Skillet
Love, love, love asparagus season! And what could be more enticing than to toss it in a tangy cheese-centric pasta? This dish works because the grassy asparagus is tempered with nutty-tasting whole wheat pasta, crunchy walnuts, and a pungent Gorgonzola brown butter sauce. Top it off with a tangle of peppery watercress and you have a serious pasta entrée!
If you haven’t had whole wheat pasta lately, you will be pleasingly surprised at the great chewy texture and nutty flavor. And whole wheat packs more nutrition. So, what’s not to try? Cooking the pasta, shallots, and asparagus in a vegetable broth rather than water retains all the otherwise wasted nutrients. Anyway, you don’t have to juggle straining hot pasta and water through a colander. It’s a favorite new way to preserve nutrients. Toasted walnuts would be a bit tastier but then nutrients are sacrificed. You decide. A little chef’s trick is to accentuate cheese sauces with a dash of nutmeg. Who knew?
Scroll to the bottom for a printable recipe.
8 tablespoons butter, divided
½ cup shallots, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 quart vegetable broth
8 ounces whole wheat penne pasta
8 ounces asparagus, discard the hard-white part end, cut into one-and-a-half-inch pieces
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
¾ cup Gorgonzola, finely crumbled
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Pinch of nutmeg, ground
½ cup walnuts, coarsely chopped, toasted
1 ½ cups fresh watercress or arugula, washed, drained
Heat two tablespoons butter in a ten-inch skillet or large sauce pot until it shimmers. Add the shallots. Cook for about four, minutes until slightly softened. Add the garlic and cook for thirty seconds.
Add the vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Add the pasta simmer for six minutes. Add the asparagus and continue to cook until the pasta is al dente (almost tender to the tooth), about four to six more minutes, stirring frequently. A small amount of broth will remain.
Meanwhile, melt the remaining six tablespoons of butter over low heat in a medium saucepan. When melted, increase the heat to medium-high, bringing it to a boil, stirring constantly. It will begin to sizzle as the water in the butter evaporates. When the sizzling subsides, and it begins to turn golden brown add the Gorgonzola and cream, stirring until the cheese melts and the sauce is smooth. Stir in the nutmeg.
Add the sauce to the pasta and asparagus, tossing to coat. Stir in the walnuts and top with tangles of watercress. Taste, Think, Transform with black pepper and/or salt.
Follow pasta package directions for approximate cooking time.