Sunday, April 22, 2012

Penne with Roasted Asparagus & Balsamic Butter

This was a delicious and easy pasta dish.  I look forward to making it again.  Instead of a full pound of pasta, I used about 3/4 pound.  I used Barilla Plus whole grain Penne.  One pound of asparagus didn't seem like enough- I would maybe increase it by 50% next time.  I put some crumbled feta on the leftovers and it was soooo good that way!!!  Be careful when reducing the Balsamic- I let it go too long unattended and burned it.  It smells super gross when that happens, and the smell can stick around for days.  It's happened to me every time I try to reduce balsamic lately, unfortunately.  Anyway.... after it happened to me again, I just used new vinegar and simmered it for a few minutes.  I didn't bother letting it get thick and syrupy, and just used it that way.  It was still very good. 

Read the directions all the way through before starting this recipe.... you can be boiling the pasta at the same time as you are making the reduction and roasting the asparagus.  It all comes together quickly! 

Penne with Roasted Asparagus & Balsamic Butter
adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe
Serves 4-6

1 pound (or more) fresh asparagus spears
1 tablespoon olive oil
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon light or dark brown sugar
3/4 pound penne pasta
4 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
good olive oil, optional

1.  Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Snap the tough ends off the asparagus and discard them. Cut the asparagus spears into 1-inch pieces. Put the asparagus on a rimmed baking sheet and toss with the oil and ¼ teaspoon of the salt and ¼ of the pepper. Roast until tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.

2.  While the asparagus roasts, put the vinegar in a small saucepan. Simmer over medium-low heat until the vinegar is reduced to about 3 tablespoons, about 5-10 minutes. Watch very carefully!!  Stir in the brown sugar and the remaining ¼ teaspoon pepper. Remove from the heat.

3.  Meanwhile, cook the penne in a large pot of boiling salted water until just done, 11-13 minutes. Drain the pasta and return to the pot. Stir in the butter and vinegar mixture. Toss to combine well. Add in the asparagus, Parmesan, and the remaining ½ teaspoon salt. Serve immediately with additional Parmesan cheese for serving.  If pasta seems too dry, drizzle with a bit of good olive oil.
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