If life is heading into the summer like a freight train with no breaks, then you need this dish before you say goodbye to spring! Asparagus pasta with feta cheese is an amazing pair and you are about to find out why: nutty, sweet and grassy, asparagus delightfully in contrast with feta cheese tanginess. It combines bright, fresh flavors and a rich, creamy pasta for a perfect spring-early summer comfort food dish. This is truly a unique way to eat asparagus. The Mediterranean way!
In addition, it is a pretty simple, straight forward, and super quick dish that we can whip up in no time. 20 minutes, guys. It takes only 20 minutes. So, whenever I am running out of dinner, and there is a bunch of springtime asparagus in the fridge, I combine them with garlic, onion, herbs, white wine, feta crumbles and spaghetti to get a cozy, no fuss, vibrant pasta that everyone in the house gobbles up (often straight from the skillet).
ASPARAGUS PASTA: INGREDIENTS
For this recipe: Thickers asparagus stalks will work better. They will give more body, a delightfully robust flavor and meaty texture to the dish. Additionally, it is much safer to cook. Yes, they take some more time to prepare (like 10 minutes- find out how below) but keep in mind that tender, thin asparagus can be easily overcooked and get lost in the pasta. Then you will get a pasta dish with an unidentified green ingredient. No. So sad. I prefer asparagus stalks to scream “Here I am! Eat me!” and then to hear them out and to obediently comply.
How to purchase them: Fresh asparagus should be firm, crisp, and unwilted. They should not smell funny and their color (depending on the variety there are green, white, and purple asparagus) should be bright.
Storage: Asparagus doesn’t like the fridge or the freezer. So you have to be careful while storing.
The best way to store it is by trimming a small part from the bottoms of the stalks and place them in a big jar or glass with a little water in the bottom. Then store in the refrigerator and make sure you change the water daily. The stalks will remain fresh and crisp for 2-5 days, but I won’t recommend to keep it longer. The best thing to do is to use them as fresh as you can. Avoid freezing.
I recommend a spicy, strong-flavored feta cheese because the secret for this dish is the contrast between the tanginess of the cheese and the earthy flavor from asparagus. If you are out of feta cheese, you may use pecorino or Parmesan cheese. However, feta cheese is the perfect ingredient and you should make it at least once to find out the reason.
This dish is all about the herbs. I chose oregano, thyme, crushed red pepper flakes for a slight spicier dish, and finely-chopped leaves of thyme lemon or lemon zest. Thyme lemon is a perennial plant that tastes and smells like lemon. This is a perfect topping for this dish. If you have never heard of it or you cannot find it, don’t worry. Add some lemon zest and you are good to go.
Topped with chives if you want.
THE WHITE WINE. DRY, PLEASE
Mediterranean cooks love wine and they use it very often for a very good reason: it adds acidity to the dish which allows ingredients to reveal their own unique flavor. When you handle ingredients like asparagus, I couldn’t recommend more a splash of wine. The result will amaze you.
I love linguini for this recipe but you may use whatever pasta you got in hand.
SUBS & VARIATIONS
MAKE IT EVEN HEALTHIER: Sure, you can. Just use whole grain pasta which is highly recommended for those who follow the Mediterranean way of eating.
USE MORE VEGGIES: in case you cannot find asparagus (which is really sad because it is the main ingredient), don’t feel frustrated. Substitute broccolini or zucchini or/and spinach for the asparagus. It won’t be the same, of course, and I know you love asparagus but, hey, let’s not discriminate against veggies. They all have their unique offer in flavor and nutrition.
For this recipe, I have planned to add peas because they would add a delightful sweetness but I totally forgot them after a major fight between my boys and all the mess and craziness aftermath. But that’s another story.
So, by all means, add whatever veggies your taste buds want to taste.
ASPARAGUS PASTA: THE RECIPE
- Start by preparing asparagus: Preparing asparagus isn’t only easy but fun too. Well, at least for me.
If asparagus spears are thin, just trim the ends, rinse the stalks and let them rest in cold water for no more than five minutes. You don’t have to blanch them.
For the thickened asparagus, break the stem and hear this soothing loud crack that I absolutely love or use a knife to trim them. Disregard the bottoms. But still, you have some work to do because the thicker ends are stringy and you should peel them. It is easy if you use a peeler. Just lay the stalks flat on your counter and roll each piece as you shave it.
Finally, cut them into two or three pieces depending on your preference in size.
- Prepare all the ingredients. It is important to have all your ingredients ready to use, your big skillet in place with hot olive oil in it, and stand by. Find out below why (step #4).
- Blanch asparagus along with the pasta. Is this brilliant cooking or what? If your asparagus stalks are thin then skip this step. But if they are thick, blanching asparagus is essential because this is the best way to make sure that the inside will be perfectly cooked.
You don’t have to use another pot for blanching. Just add asparagus stalks in the pasta pot and blanch along with pasta for 3-4 minutes. Don’t worry. You won’t mess up everything. The stalks remain on the surface (see the photo below) so your pasta and asparagus stalks will play together like best friends in the same pot.
- While you blanch the stalks, move fast. This is the only tricky part of the recipe. Your skillet should be ready and the olive oil hot enough to caramelize the onion and sauté the garlic whilst asparagus are blanching. When you finish with the onion-garlic, use a strainer ladle or slotted spoon to transfer the asparagus stalks right into the skillet.
- Add the rest of the ingredients. Just add the rest of the ingredients and lightly sauté everything. All we want is the herbs to release their flavor.
- Leave feta cheese crumbles at the end. Remove skillet from the heat before you add feta cheese crumbles. The heat dissolves feta cheese really quickly and leaves unappetizing ingredients behind. Feta cheese should be just soft to give its amazing creamy texture. That’s why it is much safer to remove the skillet from the heat and then stir in feta crumbles.
- Finally the pasta. Keep in mind the recommended time according to the directions on the package. If you like your pasta al dente count one minute less. Use a pasta server (or pasta spoon) to transfer the pasta from the pot to the skillet. You don’t have to drain the pasta. Keep the remaining pasta water in case you need more liquid at the end.
Alternatively, you may prepare pasta ahead of time, drain it, keep 2 cups of pasta water and assemble your asparagus pasta when feta cheese sauce is ready.
- Mix everything together over low heat and serve.
MY ASPARAGUS PASTA WITH FETA CHEESE IS READY! NOW, WHAT?
Serve it up while it is hot, right from the pan! It is the ultimate spring comfort pasta when it is served hot. Pair it either with a fruity Sauvignon Blanc, or Chardonnay or Assyrtico wine.
It is a light dinner on its own along with a small piece of homemade crusty bread or pita bread for sopping up the juices from your plate. I would definitely serve it with this melon-Caprese salad or this beetroot salad. If you want to “do it the Italian way”, serve an antipasto (appetizer) like these homemade cured anchovies, your asparagus pasta as primo piatto (first plate) and this amazing Greek stuffed eggplant as your main dish. This menu cannot be more Mediterranean and it is packed with distinctive flavors. Each plate a culinary experience.
ARE THERE ANY LEFTOVERS? (YEAH, RIGHT)
You got 2 options here. Serve them either chilled or warm (use a pan over low heat and add some hot water if you like your leftovers warm) the following day. Either way, why not to add cherry tomatoes or/and cucumber or/and bell peppers, olives to make a nice pasta salad? You will turn over leftover food into an amazing pasta salad. Whatever you choose is a win-win situation.
GIVE ME SOME MORE RECIPES
If you are like me – obsessed with asparagus – you should make these recipes too
If you make this recipe, you have to let me know! I absolutely love your feedback. This is a huge motivation for me and keeps 30daysofgreekfood’s kitchen alive. Bookmark this recipe and leave your rate and comment below, or take a photo with your asparagus pasta with feta cheese and tag me on Instagram with #30daysofgreekfood and Facebook with @30daysofgreekfood.
ASPARAGUS PASTA WITH FETA CHEESE
- 1 pound (500g) asparagus, tender parts, trimmed and peeled, cut into 2-3 inch pieces (*1)
- 1 pound (500g) linguini or any pasta of choice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced or grated
- 2 cups (300g) feta cheese, crumbled
- ¼ cup (60 ml) dry white wine (optional)
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
- 1 tablespoon fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
- Thyme lemon, finely chopped or lemon zest
- Chives (optional)
- Prepare all ingredients and place them near the stovetop.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add 1 tablespoon salt and the pasta stirring occasionally. Immediately stir in asparagus stalks and cook along with pasta for 3-4 minutes. (*2)
- Meanwhile, in a big skillet heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté for 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium. Use a slotted spoon to transfer asparagus stalks from the pasta pot to the skillet. Add the garlic, oregano, thyme, red pepper flakes (optional) and the wine. Simmer for 5 more minutes. Season with pepper. You may skip salt because feta cheese contains a lot.
- Remove the skillet from heat and immediately stir in feta cheese crumbles. Stir lightly to melt feta cheese.
- Pasta should be ready by now (follow cooking time according to package directions). Use a pasta server to transfer the cooked pasta from the pot to the skillet. Reserving some of the pasta water if you want to thin out the feta cheese sauce.
- Place the skillet again on the stove over low heat and toss well to coat for about 2-3 minutes. Add some pasta water to thin out if you prefer. Don’t overcook it.
- Remove from heat and serve hot topped with more crushed red pepper flakes (optional), thyme lemon or lemon zest and chives (optional).