Friday, April 20, 2018

Shocking Asparagus

Spring, where are you? So far I’ve seen only a pitiful handful of crocuses in the yard. But hope springs (yes, a bad pun) eternal!

Apparently the cooks of Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen turn to asparagus recipes in the spring. So do online chefs and those who write for the dwindling number of print newspapers. This past weekend I found Adam Ried's contribution in the Boston Globe welcoming spring with asparagus.

What caught my eye was his discussion of “blanching and shocking” the asparagus before incorporating it into a dish. (Sounds like something from a romance novel, doesn’t it?) This keeps it bright green and helps prevent overcooking it. And he also did something smart: he saved the blanching water to cook the pasta for the dish, which added a bit more flavor.

His recipe caught my eye because it includes bacon. I love bacon as much as anyone, but I did wonder if it would overpower the delicate flavor of the asparagus, so I decided to test it.

Pasta with Asparagus, Onions, and Bacon

First blanch your asparagus: bring a pot full of salted water to a boil, toss in the asparagus and let cook for about 2 minutes, then remove and shift the stalks into a large bowl filled with ice water (save the cooking water!), then drain and lay on paper towels to dry.

Asparagus -- raw
Asparagus -- blanched and shocked
(still bright green!)

6 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium yellow onion, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1-1/2 Tblsp pressed or grated garlic (5-7 cloves, depending on size)
8 ounces stubby or tubular pasta, boiled in the asparagus water until barely al dente (save 1-1/4 cups of the cooking liquid to use below)
1 Tblsp fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound blanched asparagus, 
6 medium scallions, thinly sliced (about 3/4 cup)
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
Olive oil for drizzling

Ingredients, almost all chopped


Snap off the tough ends of the asparagus spears and blanch (see above). Cut the stalks into 2- to 3-inch pieces.

In a Dutch oven or similar heavy pot, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove and drain on paper towels.

Remove most of the bacon fat from the pot, then set the pot over medium heat. Add the onion slices, sprinkle with salt, and cook until the onion begins to soften. Add the garlic and cook for less than a minute.

Add 3/4 cup of the pasta cooking liquid and stir. Bring to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes.

Add the cooked pasta, lemon juice, Parmesan, salt and pepper, and toss to combine. 

Remove the pot from the heat, cover, and let rest (toss often) for about a minute. Then add the asparagus, toss again, and let rest for another 2 minutes.

Add the scallions, bacon and parsley and toss to mix. Add more of the reserved water if needed, and taste for seasoning (add more salt and pepper if you like)

Transfer to a large bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and serve immediately!


You may notice that the chopping and such take more time than the actual cooking. The asparagus did remain a pretty green, and it held its own against the bacon. The main goal here is to avoid overcooking any of the ingredients, especially the asparagus.

Books! Where are the books?

Well, we're putting the finishing touches on the next Relatively Dead book, which will be out next month. You know about Murder at the Mansion, coming in June. But! Did you know that there will be another Orchard Mystery in the fall? And that the Museum Mysteries will be coming back too?

Stay tuned for fast-breaking developments (like titles and covers!)


  1. Busy! Busy! I just steam my asparagus for 5 minutes and serve with butter and a dash of salt. Delicious as a side dish. Tonight it was the side dish with pasta and red sauce. Colorful and yummy! Easy...time to get back to writing!

    1. I agree--that's the best way to eat really fresh asparagus. But it's fun to try out new dishes!

  2. Oh, Sheila, I love asparagus! It's probably my favorite vegetable. Thanks for sharing this yummy-sounding recipe! I'm reading your Orchard mysteries and have read the first Victorian Village mystery, but have your other series on my TBR list. Loving your books!

  3. "Blanched and shocked" Does the heroine get the vapors after that treatment?
    This sounds great. How can you miss with asparagus, bacon, pasta, and cheese?!