The days are getting longer and those chilly nights are just a little less chilly. Early spring is an exciting time for a chef and is signaled by one of the classic ingredients of the season: asparagus. This pasta dish with cooked and raw asparagus, cold weather radicchio and some rendered pancetta is a nice way to dip your toes in the changing waters and allows for the two seasons to have a culinary changing of the guard. Pair this with a light Sangiovese, if the nights are still cool, or pour a glass of chilled Vermentino, if you’re lucky enough to feel the warm sun on your shoulders for the first time this year.
Feeds 4 people
500g tagliatelle or pasta of your choice
6 asparagus spears
1/2 head of radicchio, remove the leaves and cut into 2cm pieces
60g pancetta, cut into matchstick-sized batons
75g grated Parmigiano Reggiano (50g for pasta + 25g for finishing)
Salt for pasta water
Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and salt to the salinity of the sea (about 10g).
Place the asparagus spears flat on a cutting board and use a vegetable peeler to slice ribbons from the middle of the asparagus to the tip. Place the ribbons in a small bowl and reserve in the refrigerator.
Add the leftover asparagus to the boiling water and cook until al dente, about three minutes. Remove the asparagus and run under cold water or place in an ice bath to stop the cooking. Once cool enough to handle, slice the asparagus at an angle into small disks and set aside.
Add the pasta to the boiling water. When the pasta has about 4 minutes left in its cooking time, place a large saute pan over medium heat and add the pancetta while the pan is still cold. Allow the pancetta to render out and then carefully add a ladle full of pasta water. Add the radicchio and cooked asparagus. As the radicchio begins to wilt, remove the pasta from the water and add directly to the pan. Toss or stir to mix all the ingredients.
Turn off the heat and add the 50 grams of Parmigiano Reggiano to create a silky sauce. Transfer to a serving platter. Top the pasta with the raw asparagus ribbons and finish with the remaining Parmigiano Reggiano.
Raise your glasses in a toast for spring—and enjoy!