Pancetta makes everything better. Many people say that about bacon, but my preference is pancetta. Pancetta is salt cured pork belly and is not smoked like bacon. What I love about it is that when diced and fried crisp, it is like eating toffee bits. It is so crispy and the flavor is intense. This recipe only calls for 2 ounces, but it is enough.
The asparagus in the markets right now is beautiful; bright green and firm. I added it to the pasta three minutes before it was done to save on pots. This is one of those dishes that comes together easily and is perfect for a busy day.
My Brother Bill and SIL Barb are coming from Michigan for a visit starting this weekend and then next weekend we will be heading back to welcome Spring in the North Carolina mountains. Lake Lure beckons this time of year.
PASTA WITH ASPARAGUS, PANCETTA AND WALNUTS
8 ounces Penne pasta
1 pound of asparagus, trimmed and cut into pieces
1 clove of minced garlic
1/4 cup toasted walnut pieces
2 ounces of diced pancetta
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Have the deli cut a 2 to 3 ounce slice of pancetta. Dice the pancetta and saute in a skillet until the fat is rendered and the pancetta is golden brown and crisp.
Cook the pasta according to package directions and 3 minutes before it is done, add the asparagus. Drain, reserving some of the pasta water. Put pasta mixture in a bowl and add the garlic.
Combine the lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Whisk together. Drizzle over the pasta mixture; toss well to coat and add a little pasta water if it is too dry. Sprinkle with the pancetta, walnuts and Parmesan. Mix together and serve. 4 servings.