Saturday, September 11, 2010

20 Minute Dinner - Pasta with Asparagus & Pesto Cream Sauce

Somedays, I really don't want to cook. REALLY. Like on those days when umpteen projects all come in at work on the same day, that one guy from a certain department keeps bugging you with the most asinine questions ever, and you spill coffee on your shirt within the first five minutes of sitting at your desk. Those are the days that I'm extremely glad I have a husband who likes to cook as much as I do.

This was a team effort, in the sense that I said, "Hey, we should make a pasta with pesto cream sauce for dinner," and he said "Okay." He got to work putting water on to boil, digging out ingredients, and scurrying around the kitchen. I stood by the fridge and suggested that asparagus would make a nice vegetal addition. He agreed and I handed him the bundle from the crisper. I'm proud of my contribution to this meal.

Of course it's easy for me to say that this is one of the easiest dinners ever, since I didn't actually cook it. But that's what teamwork is all about, right? Regardless of who was cooking, this is one of those dishes that can be on the table in 20 minutes, easy. Unfortunately, we didn't realize until we were already into the process that the only pasta we had on hand was elbow macaroni, and not any penne or fancy-schmancy shapes. So we chuckled, poured a glass of white wine, and jokingly nicknamed our collaboration "Mac'n'Cheese for Grown Ups."

This pasta dish is very lightly dressed; not one of those pastas where the noodles are swimming in pools of heavy cream sauce. We used homemade pesto that we'd assembled over the weekend. It had considerably less oil than store-bought tends to have (3/4 c. basil, 1/4 c. parmesan cheese, 3 T. toasted pine nuts, 2-3 cloves garlic, 1/2 c. oil, S&P to taste - Blend until smooth), which worked out well because we didn't have to worry about our sauce being greasy. You can certainly use store-bought, but I would suggest straining the portion you'll use for this dish before adding it in. The asparagus we used was so thin it barely needed to be cooked - the whole bundle was kept together (easier to remove from the water) and blanched for just about 2 minutes.

Pasta with Asparagus & Pesto Cream Sauce
Serves 4-6

1 12-16 oz. box pasta
1 bundle of thin asparagus, cut ends trimmed away (keep in a bundle, but replace the rubber bands with butcher's twine)
2 T. butter
1/4 c. white wine
2/3 c. cream
Scant 1/2 c. pesto

Boil a large stock pot of water and salt with 2 T. kosher salt. Add the asparagus bundle and let cook for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, until asparagus is bright green. Remove the asparagus with kitchen tongs and set on a cutting board to cool. Let the water return to a boil and add the pasta. Cook according to package directions.

Meanwhile, melt butter in skillet with high sides over medium heat. Once butter is melted, add white wine and let reduce for 30 seconds. Whisk in the pesto and turn heat to medium-low. Slowly whisk in the cream, being sure not to let it boil. Once cream has been added, let cook at a bare simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sauce has thickened slightly.

Cut the blanched asparagus into pieces an inch or so long, add to the cream sauce. Add cooked pasta to the sauce, stir thoroughly, and taste. Add S&P as needed & serve.


  1. I was also in need of a quick delicious meal last night, and decided to try this. I found a nifty pasta that kind of looks like macaroni with a pretty ruffle, which cradled the sauce very nicely. I used chicken broth in lieu of white wine, and sugar snap peas (I'm not really an asparagus fan). It was a huge hit... we ate way too much and loved it. Can't wait to try more of your recipes!

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed it! I hadn't thought about using sugar snap peas, but that certainly sounds delicious. Look for my posts to start picking up again in March and April - I've unfortunately not had the time to post weekly as I hoped.

    Thanks for the feedback!