For 4 people: 350-400 g of Ricciole (wheat germ pasta)1 kg green asparagus100 g pine nuts1 glass Extra Virgin Olive Oil20 basil leaves½ tbsp coarse salt1 tsp salt½ tsp Tuscan red wine vinegar I.G.T.
Use a sharp knife to cut the fibrous, woody end off the asparagus. Wash them thoroughly under running water, without leaving them to soak. To make sure you have eliminated the earth and other impurities, scrape the stalks with a small knife and then rinse them again. Drain the asparagus and tie them into small bunches with kitchen string. Arrange them upright in a narrow saucepan (or better still a special asparagus pot, with a basket for draining them) in 4-5 fingers of boiling water to which you have added half a tablespoon of coarse salt. Cook them for about 20 minutes, without the lid on, until they begin to “bow their heads”. For this recipe the asparagus need to be well-cooked. Remove them from the saucepan, drain them using a pair of tongs and put 4 to one side (they will be used later on). Eliminate the end part if it is still tough and then blend them with the other ingredients, pine nuts, oil, basil, vinegar and salt, in the mixer. You will obtain an asparagus purée that is soft, fragrant and “ready for anything”.
(The unmistakeable aroma of asparagus that this purée has, adds a special touch to an endless number of dishes. A particularly successful combination is “asparagina” and eggs, in any way they are cooked. Delicious for appetizers and starters, on small slices of toasted white bread, such as baguette, accompanied by wedges of hardboiled egg, chunks of mature cheese or spread on a thick frittata cut into cubes.)
Ingredients for the béchamel sauce:
50 g butter
½ l milk
50 g flour
½ tsp grated nutmeg
Put the butter in a small (heavy-bottomed) pan over a moderate heat. As soon as it has melted, add the flour and mix them together, stirring for 2-3 minutes with a wooden spoon and without letting the mixture brown. In the meanwhile bring the milk to the boil. Pour a small amount of boiling milk into the saucepan and mix thoroughly; a little at a time, add all the milk stirring constantly. Cook for approximately 10 minutes, over a very low heat, taking care that the sauce doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. When you turn the heat off, season with salt and nutmeg.
… to put everything together:
2 anchovy fillets
1 clove of garlic
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (2 tablespoons for the pasta when it is strained)
a few tablespoons of grated pecorino cheese
Heat the garlic in 3 tablespoons of olive oil over an average heat, add the anchovies, well rinsed and deboned, stir until the anchovies dissolve and then remove from the heat. Remove the garlic from the anchovy sauce and then stir in the asparagina and the béchamel.
Cook the Ricciole in plenty of salted water; when they are “al dente”, after roughly 5 minutes, strain them and tip them into a bowl with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Distribute a little asparagina in the bottom of an oven dish, put a layer of pasta on top of it, cover with abundant asparagina, then another layer of pasta, asparagina and grated pecorino cheese. The dish must be deep enough to contain three layers of pasta and sauce. Lastly, after you have prepared the final layer and covered it with asparagina and pecorino, take the 4 boiled asparagus that you put on one side earlier, cut them into strips and use them to decorate the top. Bake in the oven at 160 °C for about 45 (max. 60) minutes. When a golden crust has formed, remove from the oven and leave to rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.
This oven baked pasta with asparagina is also good warm and any leftovers can be reheated in the oven for another 15-20 minutes – they’ll be just as delicious!