Pasta: Pasta al Forno con Asparagi (Baked Pasta with Asparagus)

posted by SueFreeman 05-15-101 7:09 PM

Pasta al Forno con Asparagi (Baked Pasta with Asparagus Sauce)

1 lb Rigatoni or Ziti
1 large bunch of asparagus (about 2 1/2 lbs)
4 T unsalted sweet butter
4 T flour
4 cups hot milk (you can use any milk)
1 1/2 cups grated cheese (Parmesan or Asiago)
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/4 lb Proscitto cut up in small pieces Can use a smokehouse ham, diced

Preheat oven to 350.

Trim Asparagus by removing tough ends. Let is snap where it naturally breaks. Cook the asparagus in hot water until tender. Only one to two minutes as you are going to be baking this also. Cut off tips; set aside to save. Chop and put into food processor the rest of the asparagus. Puree until smooth. (You will be pureeing about 2/3 of the stem and just saving the tips).

Using the flour, butter and milk make the bechemel sauce. Melt the butter in a pan and add flour and stir until blended. Do not brown this roux. Add hot milk and stir and cook til thickened enough that it coats the back of a spoon and you can run your finger down the back and it creates a line that stays. It takes about 3 to 5 minutes of cooking. Stir constantly to keep from sticking and burning. Take off heat and add pureed asparagus and mix well. Add 1/2 of the grated cheese, pepper and salt (watch the salt as cheese has a lot of salt in it) and add the chopped prosciutto or ham.

Cook Pasta til al dente. Drain.

Butter a baking dish (9 x 13) generously. Put a little sauce on the bottom and add a layer of pasta. Cover with sauce and add 1/2 the remaining cheese and 1/2 the asparagus tips. Repeat layers but make sure sauce is on top and not the cheese. (It browns too quickly). Grate lightly some nutmeg on top of the pasta. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. You might have to cover this as the top browns and if it starts to brown then cover.

NOTE: The Italians do not believe in using sauce the way we do. To the Italians the pasta is the entree and not the sauce. The sauce is made to enhance the pasta and flavor it. Not make it swim. In Italy Americans are disappointed that the sauce is so little. So if you want more sauce for this then make more bechemel sauce and add that.

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