Asparagus season is my favourite time of year. As a vegetarian I’m really pleased to see a vegetable take pride of place on menus and cookery magazines. The British asparagus season is one of the triumphs of the culinary calendar and well worth waiting for. I’m lucky to have a nearby deli that gets a supply from a local farm. As I can’t grow it myself, this is the next best thing. Freshness is the key to the flavour. If you’re buying from a supermarket check that it’s British asparagus, the stuff shipped from Peru (why?) is only an expensive disappointment.
The first bunch on the year is only served one way – boiled and served with melted butter for dipping. After that, I start looking for something different, but I still want to retain the flavour integrity of this very special ingredient.
This recipe is nearly as simple as serving it with melted butter. I think it showcases the best of Italy and Britain – good ingredients, cooked simply and left to speak for themselves. And use the best olive oil you’ve got for this. It’s a celebration of the season.
200g pasta (rigatoni or penne)
1 bunch asparagus (about 10-12 spears)
1 fat clove garlic, crushed
Juice of 1/2 lemon
3 tbsp olive oil
2 fresh basil stalks, finely shredded
Put the pasta on to boil in plenty of salted water.
Break off the tough end of the asparagus spears and trim off the pointy leaves on the stalk below the tips.
Cut off the tips of the asparagus spears and slice the stalks on a steep diagonal.
Three minutes before the pasta is due to finish cooking, add the asparagus to the pan.
Add the garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and basil to a bowl and mix throughly.
Season with salt and pepper.
Drain the pasta and asparagus.
Toss in the dressing and serve.
You can add a grating of vegetarian parmesan-style cheese, but personally, I prefer this dish without.