Meatless Monday: Penne with roasted asparagus and balsamic butter


The Wife likes to hide things on me. She plays coy, but I know she does it on purpose. She does it with my wallet, my iPhone, and other stuff around the house. On Monday night, she did it with the pine nuts.

I knew that I had purchased a jar of pine nuts on Saturday while grocery shopping. Since they are so damn expensive, I was a little concerned as to where they landed. I asked The Wife. She played dumb. No, she would tell me, I don’t know where they are.

IMG_2335We went through grocery bags, the refrigerator and the pantry. No sign of them. So, linguine with pine nuts and asparagus was out, and pasta with ingredients on hand was in. I had just finished cutting everything, from the asparagus to the butter, when I went for the cabinet where I keep the kosher salt. There, staring back at me with the look of a dog reunited with its owner, was the lonely jar of pine nuts. I rescued them, giving them refuge on the counter where they will be used during a dinner next week.

Naturally, The Wife denies her role in this ruse. She says that I must have put them there because they were too high for her to reach.

Likely story.

IMG_2338WHAT WORKED: Most of the pasta and asparagus recipes that I’ve found involve steaming the vegetable or sautéing. This one called for a 10-minute roasting in a hot oven with some olive oil, salt and pepper. Roasting asparagus really brings out the peak flavor from the vegetable without drying it out.

WHAT DIDN’T: The butter. The recipe called for a full stick, which was way too much. I like butter as much as the next guy, but this was in the neighborhood of overkill.

WHAT DID THE WIFE SAY: “I think there was too much butter. I have a stomachache.”

WILL IT MAKE ANOTHER APPEARANCE: Yes, but with (wait for it) less butter.

IMG_2337Penne with roasted asparagus and balsamic butter
From Real Simple

1 lb. asparagus
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. fresh-ground black pepper
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp. brown sugar
1 lb. penne
1/4 lb. butter, cut into pieces
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

IMG_2341Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Snap the tough ends off the asparagus and discard them. Cut the spears into 1-inch pieces. Put the asparagus on a baking sheet and toss with the oil and 1/4 teaspoon each of the salt and pepper. Roast until tender, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the vinegar in a small saucepan. Simmer until 3 tablespoons remain. Stir in the brown sugar and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Remove from the heat.

IMG_2343Cook the penne in a large pot of boiling, salted water until just done, about 13 minutes. Drain the pasta and toss with the butter, vinegar, asparagus, Parmesan, and the remaining 1 3/4 teaspoons salt (I skipped the salt and added 1/2 cup of pasta cooking liquid). Serve with additional Parmesan.


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