If you live somewhere that already feels like summer, maybe you can just stop reading right now and go outside and enjoy a sunny patio somewhere. Maybe it already feels like springtime in your part of the world. How nice that must be for you. Over here in the Pacific Northwest, things are downright miserable. Rain, hail and chilly weather is how the first few days of May have been shaping up and I don’t like it one bit. On Sunday night, I went out for a Jane’s Walk in the torrential downpour and I froze. I actually needed freakin’ mittens. Mittens in May. May!!! Maybe it’s because we were so cavalier when February rolled around and it was warm and sunny, we didn’t even need to reach for mittens back then. Oh those bygone days!
Instead of going on picnics or going out for leisurely bike rides, I’m turning on the heat and cozying up a little with some creamy pasta. This dish has bright green spring vegetables like asparagus and spinach along with a bite of lemon. It looks so bright that you can almost fool yourself into think that spring has arrived. Almost. But don’t be fooled. The flavours aren’t robust and exciting but don’t think that this is a bad thing – because it’s not. Everything from the pasta to the béchamel sauce to the vegetables works as a whole to help satisfy and comfort the weariest soul. This is a meal that tastes like something your mom would make and if your husband (or partner or roommate or friend) is anything like mine, they will go back for seconds and sing your praises. And this is always a nice thing to hear, especially when the rain is beating hard against your windows and you’re beginning to wonder if spring will really ever take hold in this dark little godforsaken part of the world. So take comfort in what you can and hope for the best.
bowties with spinach & asparagus
1 bunch asparagus
1 bunch spinach
250 g bowtie pasta (or other short pasta)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, finely diced
1/2 t red chili flakes
2 T butter
3 T flour
1 1/2 c skim milk
1/4 – 1/2 c extra sharp cheddar, grated (or use another strong hard cheese)
1/2 t oregano
salt & pepper
juice & zest of 1 lemon
1. Add 1 tablespoon of butter to a small saucepan and heat until melted over med-high heat. Add onion, garlic, salt & pepper, and chili flakes and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add in another tablespoon of butter and when it’s melted, whisk in the flour. Cook everything for about a minute and then slowly pour in the milk, whisking constantly. When the mixture thickens, add in the cheese and oregano, whisking again until smooth and creamy.
2. Meanwhile, cook pasta in salted boiling water.
3. Snap off asparagus tips and cut stalks into 2 inch bits or so. Rinse well. Drain and rinse spinach well, discarding any funky looking leaves.
4. Add the asparagus into a metal colander and dunk into the boiling pasta water and cover. Let cook for 2-3 minutes or until bright green and still crisp. Or steam your usual way, whatever. Set aside.
5. Just before draining pasta, dump in spinach and stir about until slightly wilted. Drain pasta and spinach and add in asparagus. Pour in the béchamel sauce, lemon juice and lemon zest and toss until everything is coated. Taste & adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve in deep bowls.