Last Friday night, I returned to Chicago after a three-week work trip. To say that I was glad to be home would be an extreme understatement. I missed my husband, my city, my kitchen, my food, my easy routines. I spent the weekend reacquainting myself with all of these things, reveling in them and appreciating them all as though they were brand new. The weather was pretty uncooperative, but that didn’t stop us from walking miles and visiting the farmers’ market (opening day in Lincoln Park!) and churning ice cream and sliding a bouquet of peonies into a mason jar.
It was a spring weekend to make up for the several that I had missed while I was away.
From the farmers’ market, we hauled home a couple of sacks, heavy with spring’s first produce: two bundles of asparagus, one with pencil thin spears and the other with spears about as fat as my index finger; slender stalks of deep-red rhubarb; a tuft of French breakfast radishes, begging to be swiped through good soft butter and sprinkled with coarse salt; spring onions, whose purple bulbs were so fragrant they stung my eyes; and a few handfuls of fingerling potatoes, just-dug if the wet dirt clinging to them was any indication. We visited stalls we’ve visited year after year, and we searched in vain for the stall that normally turns out freshly-fried zeppole (fingers crossed that they’ll be back in coming weeks).
Truth be told, I’ve been on an asparagus bender for weeks. That grilled asparagus from Saturday night was only the latest installation. This pasta—bucatini, tangled with spicy, lemony, garlicy, barely-cooked shaved asparagus and topped with freshly-toasted breadcrumbs—is what started it all. I made it just before leaving town, and it haunted my cravings (so much for pickles-and-ice cream—if not for the bump, you might not think I was pregnant) while I was away. I’ll be making it again soon, this time with a bundle from the farmers’ market.
Shaved Asparagus & Bucatini
2 thick slices hearty bread, torn into about 1-inch pieces
extra virgin olive oil
1 pound bucatini
red pepper flakes
1 clove garlic, minced
2 bundles asparagus, shaved
1/4 cup grated parmesan
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pulse bread in food processor to make bread crumbs. Spread the crumbs on a small baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and a pinch of salt; toss. Toast for 15 minutes, or until golden brown.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook bucatini until al dente. Reserve a bit of the cooking water.
Just before the pasta finishes cooking, heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet. Add garlic and a pinch or two of red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about a minute. Add asparagus and a pinch of salt; cook until the asparagus until slightly softened. Add juice of the lemon. Toss.
Add the cooked bucatini and parmesan to the skillet with the asparagus; toss to coat. Add reserved cooking water a tablespoon at a time, if necessary, to achieve your desired consistency. Serve, topped with toasted breadcrumbs.