Monday, April 6, 2015

Wild asparagus tagliatelle with lemon, olive oil and garlic

It’s that time of the year, when you go to the market and it’s filled with all possible shades of green. Vegetables I have missed seeing and tasting are popping up left and right and it’s impossible to choose what to take home with me.

Artichokes and spinach, dandelions and nettles, chard and peas, they are all there, even the first rhubarb of the year with its seductive reddish color to break the green monotony.

When I caught a glimpse of some wild asparagus hiding in the corner of one of the market stalls, I was drawn to them like a moth to a flame. I jumped and grabbed them before anyone else could, put them in my bag and didn’t think twice about getting anything else. They were all I wanted.

I bought more than we could eat in one meal, so I used them in a couple of different recipes. One of them was this tagliatelle with garlic, olive oil and lemon. It couldn’t be simpler really, because when you have fresh, in-season and rare ingredients like wild asparagus, you must treat them with respect and great care. You definitely shouldn’t fuss around too much with them or pair them with ingredients that will mask their flavor, but with ingredients that will complement and highlight it.

This light, healthy and fresh pasta dish was perfect, with the slightly bitter flavor of the slender wild asparagus—bitter flavor gets a bad rap, we need more bitter foods!—with the lemon brightening the dish up and the parmesan adding umaminess and dairy acidity.

If you can find wild asparagus, this is the dish to try. Well, this and the one I will be sharing in a few days. Stay tuned.

Wild asparagus tagliatelle with lemon, olive oil and garlic

I am aware that wild asparagus are not widely available in every country, so if you like the idea of this asparagus pasta dish but you can’t find wild ones, simply substitute them with an equal amount of tender, young green asparagus spears. However, you will need to blanch the regular green asparagus for 2-3 minutes before using them in the dish as they are far tougher than the extremely thin wild ones. Wild asparagus have half the thickness of a pencil.

Yield: 2 servings

200 g dried tagliatelle
200 g wild asparagus
2 Tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 garlic clove, minced
2½ Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper
Parmesan, grated

Special equipment: colander, grater

Rinse the asparagus under cold running water and snap off the woody parts at the bottom end. In order to do that, take the end of the asparagus between your thumb and forefinger, holding the top half with your other hand, and bend it until it snaps. It will automatically snap at the part where the woody part ends and the tender part starts. This snapping point will be lower or higher depending on the spear.
Cut the asparagus in half if they are too long.

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil over high heat and add the tagliatelle. Cook until al dente (firm but not very hard) or cook to your liking.

While the water is boiling and the pasta is cooking, prepare the asparagus “sauce”. You will need to add some of the pasta water to the asparagus so keep that in mind.

Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large, wide sauté pan (one that will fit the pasta as well) over medium heat and add the garlic. Sauté for a few seconds and add the asparagus. Season with salt and pepper and sauté for a couple of minutes, stirring gently and frequently. Add the lemon juice and keep sautéing the asparagus for one more minute. Add a little less than ¼ cup of the pasta water and cook asparagus until tender but not too soft. You want them to have texture and not turn into mush.

When the tagliatelle are ready, lift them from inside the pot using tongs, allowing the excess water to drain back into the pot, transfer them to the pan with the asparagus and toss gently to mix.

Serve immediately on individual plates, drizzle with some olive oil and grind some black pepper on top. Finally, grate some parmesan and sprinkle it over the top.


  1. I love asparagus. Here we find mainly white asparagus. They are so good that we usually eat them just plain, no fancy cooking. But I might give them a try with pastas!
    xx cathy

    1. Well, I wouldn't call this pasta fancy cooking but rather very simple. Intentionally so, in order for the wild asparagus to shine! So give it a try with any asparagus, wild, green or white and I hope you enjoy! xx

  2. I love the simplicity of this dish. Wild asparagus is not available here, but we used to have it growing wild where we lived back east. I miss it. I can see why you grabbed it at the market - I would have, too! xo, David

    1. Hope you get the chance to eat wild asparagus again David. They are sooo good! xx

  3. Such a fantastic way to use asparagus, definitely need to make this!!

  4. I love all your plates .. Wonder where you buy them here in holland?