Recently, while looking through old recipes I had created, I spotted one from over a decade ago for pasta with roasted garlic and crème fraîche. I had roasted garlic cloves in olive oil, then mashed them into a puree with some of the oil in which they had roasted and with softened butter. This mixture along with a touch of crème fraîche, grated Parmesan, and parsley were tossed with cooked pasta and mounded in bowls. I decided to make the dish again, but with some new additions. I included a sauté of sliced mushrooms and asparagus and pan-fried diced pancetta for the garnish. From his first bite, my spouse loved this dish and reached for seconds. My assistant, who helped test the updated version, enthusiastically filled her bowl with an extra serving too.
Peeling the garlic cloves for roasting is not as time consuming as you might think. With the handle of a knife, hit a head of garlic firmly enough once or more so that it breaks into cloves. Then smash each clove firmly again with the side of the blade to remove the paper. If you are in a rush, you can use peeled garlic cloves, sold packaged in the produce section of many supermarkets.
You can prepare the roasted garlic mixture a day ahead. At serving time, you’ll need to sauté the pancetta, mushrooms, and asparagus, and then quickly cook the pasta. (For vegetarians, omit the pancetta.) Add a salad of mixed greens (I love crispy red or green leaf lettuce and sliced Belgian endive) in a mustard vinaigrette plus a warm baguette or ciabatta for a delicious early spring meal.
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Pappardelle with Roasted Garlic, Asparagus, and Mushrooms
18 medium garlic cloves (from one and a half heads of garlic or 18 peeled cloves from a package)
3/4 cup olive oil plus more if needed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 ounces baby bella mushrooms, trimmed and sliced thinly through the stems
1 pound slim asparagus, tough bases broken off and discarded, and spears cut diagonally into
1 1/2- inch pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces diced pancetta
3/4 pound pappardelle (or fettuccine or tagliatelle)
3 tablespoons crème fraîche
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano Reggiano, divided
Scant 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley, divided
1.Arrange a rack at center position and preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2.With the bottom of the handle of a large knife smash heads of garlic to break them into cloves. Lightly smash cloves with the side of the blade so that the paper coating is loosened. Then remove and discard paper coating from each clove until you have 18 peeled coves. Save the rest for another use. (If you are using peeled garlic cloves from a package, count out 18.)
3.Place cloves in a 1 1/2- cup ramekin, soufflé dish, or other small baking dish, and pour olive oil over cloves to cover completely, adding more oil if needed. Cover dish with a double thickness of aluminum foil pressing it against sides of dish. Roast until cloves are very tender when pierced with a sharp knife and light golden, about 30 minutes. Watch carefully towards the end of the cooking time (after 20 minutes) as garlic can burn quickly.
4.Remove cloves with a slotted spoon to a medium mixing bowl. Add 6 tablespoons (reserving the rest) of the oil in which they were roasted and the butter. Mash the garlic with a table fork to combine well with butter and oil until you have a slightly chunky puree. If necessary, you can puree the mixture in a food processor. (Garlic mixture can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cool, cover, and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature 30 minutes before using.)
5.Add pancetta to a large, heavy skillet set over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until golden and crisp, 3 to 4 minutes or more. Remove with a slotted spoon to drain on paper towels. Discard any fat in the skillet, and add 2 tablespoons of the reserved garlic oil. When hot, add the sliced mushrooms and cook, stirring, until softened and lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and drain on paper towels. If needed add just enough extra garlic oil to very lightly coat the bottom of the skillet, and add the asparagus pieces. Cook, stirring until tender when pierced with a sharp knife, 3 to 4 minutes or more. Season with salt and pepper, and drain on paper towels.
6.Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add pappardelle and 2 teaspoons salt. Cook pasta until just tender, or al dente, according to package directions. Drain in a colander and return to the pot. Add garlic mixture and crème fraîche, tossing well to combine. Stir in half of the Parmesan, scant 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, mushrooms, asparagus, and 6 tablespoons of the parsley. Mix well. Season with salt as needed.
7.Mound pasta in 4 shallow bowls, and sprinkle each serving with pancetta and with remaining Parmesan and parsley. Serves 4.
Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2022