Madonna once said that only WASPs get out of the shower to pee, and then extolled the many benefits of urine. I won’t go there, but we do need to have a brief conversation about pee, which after all, is the elephant in the room when asparagus are involved.
According to scientists, somewhere between 25 and 50 percent of people recognize that the amino acids in asparagus make their pee smell like sulfur when metabolized. As for other people, their pee probably still smells, but they lack the olfactory gene necessary to smell it. Faulty noses. (My nose works well, apparently.)
Regardless of the resulting odor, asparagus are delicious and deservedly popular throughout Europe and Italy, and are loaded with fiber and nutrition. Although this week’s recipe uses the standard green issue, the special white cultivar is also very popular this time of year. Either way, as you can see from this week’s recipe, even when combined with just a few other ingredients, asparagus are potent enough to carry the day. Hold your nose and enjoy!
p.s. Check out our wine pairings to complement this dish.
Wash the asparagus under cold water. Remove the tough bottoms sections of the spears and discard. Cut off the tips and set aside. Cut the remaining sections into large pieces. Steam (or boil) the chopped portions for about 5 minutes or until tender. Remove from heat, and set aside (apart from the tips).
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat, and add the onion. When translucent add the steamed asparagus. Cover and cook together for about 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove to a food processor and blend until pureed.
In the same skillet, add the asparagus tips and a few tablespoons of water. Cover and cook for a couple of minutes. Add back the pureed asparagus and cover. Cook for a few minutes, ensuring that the tips are tender and the sauce is hot.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente, drain it, retaining some of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the skillet with the asparagus and mix thoroughly. Add some of the retained cooking water if it seems dry.
Serve immediately with a sprinkle of Parmigiano.
O’ Vesuvio is a special shaped pasta from Campania. In dialect, the o’ means “the.” Vesuvio is Mount Vesuvius.