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Pasta and Asparagus with Crunchy Crumbs

Make the dish, win the book

Julie and Ilaria Biuso

Mother and daughter team Julie and Ilaria Biuso have a stunning new cookbook on the stands. Called Shared Kitchen: Real food from scratch after the duo’s award-winning website, the book features more than 160 recipes ranging from easy mid-week family meals to gourmet offerings perfect for any occasion.

The luscious photography by Manja Wachsmuth turns this large-format book into a real delight, as well as showing you how to present the dishes at their finest.

Julie and Ilaria have kindly allowed us to reproduce one of their recipes, for Pasta with Asparagus and Crunchy Crumbs.

You can WIN a copy of Shared Kitchen: Real food from scratch (RRP $39.99, Bateman Books) by entering our lucky draw. Email your details to media@eldernet.co.nz with ‘Cookbook competition’ in the subject line, or put your details on the back of an envelope and mail it to Cookbook competition, Eldernet, PO Box 18603, New Brighton 8641. Competition closes 5pm, Friday November 27. Winner will be notified.

Pasta with Asparagus & Crunchy Crumbs

Serves 4

This dish makes a lot of a few ingredients — breadcrumbs, pasta, seasonings and asparagus — and is easy to throw together for a light meal.

Ingredients

125ml (½ cup) extra virgin olive oil

30g (½ cup) fresh sourdough breadcrumbs

flaky sea salt

350g asparagus, trimmed

Coarse sea or rock salt for cooking asparagus and pasta

400g penne (or use linguine or fettuccine)

2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

2 tiny dried bird’s-eye chillies, crushed

finely grated zest of 1 lemon

3 Tbsp capers, drained, patted dry with paper towels and chopped

½ cup loosely packed small mint leaves, torn into small pieces

¼ cup loosely packed young parsley sprigs, torn into small pieces

freshly grated parmesan cheese (optional)

Method

Heat 2 tablespoons of the measured oil in a small frying pan (skillet) over medium heat and once it is hot add the breadcrumbs. Cook until golden and crisp, turning often. Transfer to a side plate lined with paper towels and sprinkle with sea salt.

Cook asparagus in gently boiling lightly salted water for about 7 minutes, or until tender (the asparagus must not be too crunchy in this dish). Drain, refresh with cold water, drain, then pat dry with paper towels. Cut into short lengths.

Cook the pasta in plenty of gently boiling well-salted water until al dente. While the pasta is cooking, put the garlic and chillies in a large pan with the rest of the oil and warm gently over a low heat, so the garlic and chillies flavour the oil — don’t let the garlic fry.

Drain pasta and transfer it to the pan of garlic and chilli oil with any clinging water (don’t shake it dry). Add lemon zest and capers, toss again, then add asparagus, mint and parsley. Toss then transfer to a heated bowl. Sprinkle with the crunchy crumbs and serve immediately with parmesan.

Recipe Notes

Linguine (flat slim noodles) work well in this dish but I like the way small pieces of capers and asparagus get trapped inside the tubes of penne pasta — so you get a double whammy in a mouthful! The best size of asparagus is medium-sized, not skinny jobs and not big fat ones either. Oh, I’m so fussy, aren’t I?

Don’t bother making the crumbs if you only have ‘doughy’ white bread from the supermarket. Sourdough crumbs turn wonderfully crunchy and develop great flavour.

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