Has anybody ever told you that children and animals are the most difficult subjects in photography? Well, I say that's a lie. Whoever came up with this has clearly never tried to take a picture of spaghetti! They are far more temperamental and not matter how hard I try, they always end up looking a mess in the picture. Unlike my children, they don't like to perform for the camera one single bit!
I found this recipe in Sainsbury's magazine the other day, it's incredibly quick to make, so the perfect dinner solution when you come home late from work. This time, I picked up some asparagus in the morning - there's a greengrocer's on the way to work and they had the thinnest, freshest, greenest asparagus stalks in abundance on display - I just couldn't resist the temptation. As we're at the very beginning of asparagus season here, the stalks are fresh, crunchy and very juicy. No need to cut or snap the ends off as the whole spear is just perfect... and when they're like that, I have even been seen eating them raw, dipped in some vinaigrette or hummous!
I liked this recipe because it's wholesome and hearty, yet as fresh as spring demands - with the garlic and chilli, the taste is reminiscent of spaghetti "alio, olio e peperoncino", but it's much lighter - less heavy on the oil side, but instead some lemon juice and fresh herbs. The disadvantage of a "cold" pasta sauce like that is that your dinner will be luke-warm or cold within minutes, so make sure to warm your plates before serving...
Spicy spaghetti with asparagus and pancetta*
(serves 3 generously)
200 g pancetta (thinly sliced strips)
3 cloves garlic (crushed)
pinch crushed chilli
250 g thin green asparagus
4 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp argan oil
2 tbsp olive oil
1 handful basil leaves (torn into small pieces)
500 g spaghetti
freshly grated parmesan, to serve
Arrange the pancetta slices on a baking tray, grilling them until they're brown and have released much of their "juices". (If you don't have a grill, you can also fry them in a pan).
Drain on kitchen towel. Using one spoonful of the fat remaining on the tray (or in the pan, respectively), fry the garlic in a pan, adding the chilli flakes when it starts to brown. Set aside.
Cook the asparagus in salt water, depending on the thickness of your stalks, this could be anything between 1 and 5 minutes - I cooked mine for 2 mins. Refresh in ice-cold water immediately so they retaine their vibrant green colour. Half the thicker spears, then cut all into 3-4 com strips.
Cook the spaghetti to packet instructions. Meanwhile, combine the oils and lemon juice in a bowl, add the basil and season with black pepper. Tear the pancetta strips into bite-sized pieces.
Warm up your plates!!!
When the spaghetti are done, drain them and put them back into the pot. Add the asparagus, pancetta and sauce, toss to combine evenly and serve immediately, sprinkling some parmesan over at the table and enjoy with a crisp salad on the side, if you wish.
* based on a recipe in Sainsbury's magazine May 2006