Sometimes genius strikes when you least expect it. Today, was one of those below-expectations situations. My parents just got back from Dubai and brought back with them tons of goodies, including (but by no means limited to) marzipan so beautiful that you don’t want to eat it, fresh sumac, za’atar, pine seeds, melt in your mouth baklava, assorted stuffed dates, chocolate (SS’s favourite Lindt Orange Swiss Thins), oh, and the purple asparagus! They also brought back unbelievably smooth and silky hummus, and some muhammara, which made a beautiful wholesome dinner along with some fresh salad and (baked) felafel. Since I’m on my gluten free syndrome (barring beer, uh duh!), I ate mine over millet (bajra) flatbread while the rest enjoyed it on pita.
Since I had a bundle of voluptuously plump asparagus, I just had to use it, before we embarked on this weekend’s staycation. So there came the conception of this humble yet phenomenally flavour packed pasta. I, of course, used gluten free pasta (which I received in last month’s box), but made SS’s lunch with regular penne. It was a kind of wing-it-as-you-go kind of recipe, combining vegetables from the fridge with some vegetable stock, a tablespoon full of cream cheese, and some mixed herbs and basil.
Off late, I’ve been leading towards non-sauce based pasta, which are by no means ‘dry’. They get some fluidity from vegetables, as well as some of the preserved pasta water (ALWAYS preserve some while cooking). Much like the Tagliatelle with Zucchini Ribbons, Basil and Mushrooms, yet different and yum!
- 1 1/2 cups pasta of choice (gluten free or penne)
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup basil leaves, roughly torn (save one entire leaf for garnishing)
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes
- 1 packet mushrooms, halved
- 1/2 cup vegetable stock
- 1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1-2" stalks
- 2 tbs olive oil
- salt, pepper
- Italian seasoning/ mixed herbs and chilli flakes
- 1 tbs cream cheese
- 1 tbs grated parmesan cheese
- Bring 1 litre of water to a rapid boil and add the pasta, some salt and a small plug of olive oil. Cook till al dente. Drain once done, but preserve 1/2 cup of cooking water.
- Simultaneously, sauté the garlic in the balance olive oil and add the asparagus. Cook on medium heat for 4-5 minutes, stirring continuously to ensure the garlic doesn't brown too much. Add in the mushrooms, and after 2-3 minutes add the cherry tomatoes.
- Add the vegetable stock, and cook for 7-8 minutes, till the tomatoes start to burst and pop open. Add seasonings, herbs and adjust to taste. If the vegetables are looking too dry, add some pf the reserved pasta water. When the vegetables are well cooked, stir in the cream cheese and then the drained pasta.
- Drizzle with the parmesan, and garnish with the sprig of basil. Enjoy with a glass of crisp white wine!