As I left for the airport in the early morning hours of late April, the cold morning air and leafless trees made me wonder if it would ever feel or look like spring here in New Hampshire. Returning home from Florida, after almost a month’s absence, it was a delight to see the trees all leafed out in Spring Green and the apple trees loaded with blossoms. Spring at our home in New Hampshire is such a welcomed season as buds burst into tender light yellow-green vegetation and the sweet smell of lilacs and apple blossoms fill the air.
During this beloved season, New Englanders try to search out and eat wild edibles such as ramps (a species of wild onion), fiddleheads (young, curled, edible fronds of certain types of ferns), morel mushrooms, and thin wild asparagus. While all these gourmet treats can be found by knowledgeable foragers, I’ve had no luck at all in my futile searches.
Wild asparagus does a good job of hiding itself from me among the wild flowers on our property and I don’t usually see their spears until after they have started to show their feathery fronds…would you believe there was one hiding right outside my front door. Over the years, I have searched in vain for ramps in the wetland areas around the perimeter of our orchard but to no avail. Ferns border the wonderful old rock walls that surround our property but they are not the ones that produce edible fronds. As to mushrooms, I’ll leave those to others to decide if they are edible or if they are poisonous.
To celebrate spring, one of the first meals I decided to create upon returning home was a Wild Garlic Pasta with Asparagus in a Lemon Cream Sauce. This simple to prepare pasta dish had a lovely spring green color and the earthy flavors were delicious. I had found a wild garlic pasta at a specialty market and it worked perfect in this recipe. Wild garlic, wild onions, or ramps, as they as they are called in New England, are reminiscent of very strong chives and if you can find them, you could certainly make your own fresh pasta for this dish and it would be extra special.
Wild Garlic Pasta In A Lemon Cream Sauce With Asparagus
Recipe serves 4, adjust accordingly
- 1 lb. asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
- 12 oz. wild garlic pasta, store-bought or homemade
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 3 Tbsp. butter, divided
- 2 shallots, minced
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1/2 c. white wine
- 1 c. cream, half and half, or milk*
- 1 Tbsp. flour, I used Wondra*
- 1 tsp. grated lemon zest
- 3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice or according to taste
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3 – 4 Tbsp. grated Pecorino Romano cheese, additional served alongside
*You can use heavy cream and eliminate the flour from the recipe. If you use half and half or milk, the flour will help keep the sauce from splitting when adding the lemon juice. When I prepared this dish, I used 1/2 c. half and half, 1/2 c. of 1% milk, and 1 Tbsp. Wondra as that is what I had available.
Steam or microwave the asparagus pieces for about 2 to 3 minutes until they are tender crisp, drain and toss with a tablespoon of butter.
In a deep sauté pan, cook the shallots in the olive oil over moderate heat until softened, about 3 or 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute. Add the wine and let cook until reduced by about half. Add 2 Tbsp. butter and when melted sprinkle the Wondra over the mixture, whisk until well blended. Stir in the half and half, zest, salt and pepper and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened. Stir in the lemon juice, remove the sauté pan from heat, cover and keep the sauce warm.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta and cook for about 10 minutes or until al dente. Ladle out a cup of pasta water, reserve, then drain the pasta into a colander. Add the drained pasta and asparagus to the sauce and toss over moderate heat until heated through. Add the reserved pasta water, if needed a little at a time, to create a proper sauce like consistency. Sprinkle the pasta with cheese, serving more on the side at the table.
This flavorful pasta is simple to prepare and will definitely remind you of all the wonderful little treasures that nature provides us during the spring. The fresh asparagus added a subtle crunch to this hearty spring pasta but it would also be great made with tender spring peas or tiny green beans. Fresh mushrooms would also add a delicious earthy flavor to the dish. I hope this recipe inspires you to create a meal with ingredients that are fresh and only available during each short growing season.