When I was growing up in the 1970s, there were four kinds of pasta know to us in suburbia: spaghetti, macaroni, lasagna noodles and, if we were feeling very exotic, manicotti. That was pretty much our full repertoire of Italian pasta (I’m not counting Chef Boyardee ravioli because I don’t think it counts as any distinct food group at all). I was well into adulthood before I experimented with pasta dishes that didn’t involve meaty tomato sauce or tons of cheese. Now, however, I love to experiment with all kinds of pasta dishes as well as pasta shapes. On our trip to Italy, Tom and I had the opportunity to try many local pasta dishes that we continue to make at home–none of them drowning in sauce and all of them featuring fresh, seasonal vegetables and seafood. Yum. It was astounding the variety of shapes and sizes of pasta available in Italy. I wanted to fill my suitcase with them!
One of my favorite pasta shapes is orecchiette (or “little ears”) pasta. Shaped somewhat like a little hat, this pasta holds sauce well and is very satisfying. I think you can find this pretty much anywhere now, but if you can’t find it, you can easily substitute penne.
Now that we are seriously increasing our running mileage, I am trying to incorporate more pasta dishes into our meals. This dish is one we experimented with this week and it is really delicious! I’m a huge fan of smoked salmon, but you could easily substitute some grilled or pan seared salmon instead and it would be fabulous (or shrimp…or chicken…pasta is flexible that way). We have been lucky to score some local mushrooms this week and we added them to the dish for an earthier, meatier flavor. So good!
Give this a try for a nice summer supper!
Orecchiette with Asparagus and Smoked Salmon (serves 4-6)
- 16 oz. orecchiette pasta
- 2 tbsp. organic butter
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2-3 cups fresh mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
- 1 lb. fresh asparagus, trimmed
- 4 oz. smoked salmon
- Zest of 1 organic lemon
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- Freshly grated or shaved Parmesan cheese
- In a stock pot, bring heavily salted pasta water to a boil.
- Add orecchiette to the stock pot and cook according to directions (12-13 minutes)
- In a large saute pan, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat until butter is melted and begins to foam.
- Peel and mince the garlic. Add to the saute pan. Cook 1 minute.
- Add the sliced mushrooms and saute for 3-4 minutes.
- Chop the asparagus into bite sized pieces and add to the mushrooms. Cook an additional 3-4 minutes.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Pull or chop the smoked salmon into bite sized pieces and add the salmon and lemon zest to the saute pan.
- Heat for 2-3 minutes until salmon is warm and vegetables are cooked, but still a bit crisp.
- Reserve 1 cup of pasta water and set aside. Drain the pasta and add to the saute pan. Toss all together until well combined.
- Add small amounts of the pasta water as necessary to make a light sauce. Correct seasonings if needed.
- Serve immediately with a sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.