Italian asparagus pasta recipe from Northern Italy.
Eliche alla crema di asparagi
Here in Veneto, Northern Italy, asparagus are a major player in the spring kitchen. This is not surprising given that this region grows the most asparagus in Italy. Roadside asparagus sellers are a common sight during the season and asparagus fields abound. Needless to say, there are lots of local recipes for asparagus. However, the most popular ways to serve them are in soup, risotto or with pasta. This Northern Italian asparagus pasta recipe is a delicious version of a typical Venetian way to combine asparagus with pasta.
Asparagus; white, green or wild?
Did you know that people have been eating asparagus since 3,000 B.C? The ancient Greeks, Egyptians and Romans loved them. The Romans even froze asparagus by transporting lots into the Alps and storing them there! Of course, now we don’t need to freeze asparagus in the mountains. We have fridges, freezers and other ways of preserving them. But, in reality, fresh farmed or wild asparagus are what you will find the most on Italian menus. Like many other seasonal Italian ingredients, asparagus are rarely eaten here when not in season.
Italy is the biggest producer of green asparagus in Europe and the third of white. Both white and green are used in local recipes. I like both types. Some Italian recipes can be made with either, some are made with both and others specifically call for green or white or wild asparagus. This Italian asparagus pasta recipe is best made with fresh or wild green asparagus.
Wild asparagus grow all over Italy and are a popular foraged food. They are most often just boiled and eaten as a side dish or served in frittata, but also in risotto and with pasta. Like many other wild versions of edible plants, wild asparagus are much smaller than their farmed cousins. However, they have a more pronounced ‘asparagus’ flavour.
Other ingredients in this Italian asparagus pasta sauce.
Alongside the asparagus, I used garlic, parsley, zucchini and an onion to make the base sauce for this Italian asparagus pasta. Then I creamed the sauce in a blender in two stages. First the asparagus then the base sauce ingredients. I mixed them together and, finally, melted some Robiola and Parmesan cheese into it. Divine! In fact so good, you can just eat the sauce with bread!
Robiola is a fresh soft cheese similar to stracchino. It comes from Piedmont, originating in the Langhe region, but is popular throughout the North. It’s usually made from cow and/or goat cheese, depending on the type of Robiola. It’s wonderful eaten with bread and honey! This cheese is often added to risotto or pasta dishes as it melts well and gives the dish a thick creamy texture! If you can’t find Robiola, you can use Stracchino or a good cream cheese.
Traditionally penne or fresh long pasta such as tagliatelle are the most popular pasta partners for Italian asparagus pasta recipes. But, other short pasta types go really well too. I used eliche. Eliche, meaning spiral or propeller, is really another name for fusilli. However, the pasta I used was smaller than most fusilli and the spirals not as tight.
It was made by a pasta company called Pastificio Felicetti located in Trentino. This pasta is part of the company’s Monograno range and was made from organic Matt durum wheat from Puglia. The Felicetti pasta factory is located in Predazzo, a town 1,000 metres above sea level and they make their pasta with natural mountain spring water. This was my first time cooking with this brand of pasta. But, it won’t be my last. The pasta was tasty and held together really well with cooking. You’d be surprised how often I come across artisan pasta that falls apart when boiled!
If you find Felicetti pasta (they export to many countries), I suggest you try it. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. (This my opinon. I have no connection with this company!).
If you make this recipe, I’d love to hear what you think. You can comment and rate this recipe here on the blog or on The Pasta Project Facebook page. Looking forward to hearing from you!
(To see the recipe just scroll down and click 2. It’s on the next page!)