In the spring, when young men’s hearts turn to flights of fancy, this dish is the stuff of dreams. Light and quick to prepare, this is a main course as fresh as a morning breeze. And with the weather warming, we are desperate to be outdoors, so this is the perfect dinner.
Makes 3-4 servings
4-6 small artichokes
extra virgin olive oil
1-2 cloves fresh garlic, thinly sliced
generous pinch red pepper flakes
2-3 shallots, finely minced
grated zest of 1 lemon
½ cup white wine
6-8 stems asparagus, ends snapped, cut into 1-inch pieces
8 ounces orecchiette
½ red bell pepper, roasted over an open flame, peeled seeded, sliced into ribbons
Small purple artichokes are best for this recipe. To prepare them, cut off the stems flush with the bottom of the globe. Peel and cut away the outer leaves of the artichokes until the tender inner leaves are exposed. Trim the tips of the leaves. Split the artichokes in half, lengthwise. Using a grapefruit spoon, clean the choke out of each one, preserving the shape of the artichoke half.
Place a small amount of oil, along with garlic, red pepper flakes and shallots in a skillet and turn heat to medium. When the shallots begin to sizzle, add a pinch of salt and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Stir in artichoke hearts, lemon zest and wine, cover and reduce heat to low. Cook until artichoke hearts are tender, about 12 minutes. Add asparagus pieces, season to taste with salt, cover and cook just until asparagus is bright green and tender. Do not overcook.
While the vegetables cook, bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta al dente. Drain well, but do not rinse, reserving one half cup pasta cooking water. Stir the pasta cooking water into the vegetable mixture and cook for 1 minute.
Transfer pasta to a platter and spoon artichokes and asparagus over top. Garnish with red pepper ribbons, drizzle with a fruity extra virgin olive oil to finish and serve immediately.