Ciao'd while watching the NFL Draft


Orrechiette, or "little ears," pasta is ideal for cradling the small pieces of pancetta along with the peas. Well-loved by the Pugliese (including me), the pasta delivers a delightful chew that plays nicely with the soft peas and crunchy pancetta. Asparagus delivers a nice herbal flavor that balances the sweet peas and salty pancetta. In short, this dish is a win-win. 

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Serves 4

1 pound orecchiette pasta
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 pound finely diced pancetta
3 to 4 asparagus stalks, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 1/2 cup) 
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a large pot of salted water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving one cup of the cooking liquid.

In a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil with the butter. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the asparagus and cook until barely tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the peas. 

Add the pasta along with the reserved cooking water and the cheese. Season with the pepper and cook over medium heat until the sauce thickens a bit. Stir in the parsley and serve immediately, accompanied with more Parmesan cheese.

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Ciao'd with a glass of Meyer lemonade

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I planted herbs in my garden a week or two ago. They’re still spriglet babies with a shared green hue that is almost transparent. As the sun warms, and warms the herbs, too, the single diaphanous hue will deepen into a range of greens - smoky (sage), emerald (parsley), clover (basil), moss (oregano) and more.

Spring is a delicate season defined by new life. Endings beget beginnings. After a winter of muted hues, we see the emergence of color, whether it’s a patch of grass unveiled by melting snow or the flash of scarlet on a red-wing blackbird. We hear a certain buzz. I’ve never been sure about the source of the buzz, but scientific sorts tell me it emits from baby insects – bees and so forth. I prefer to think that it is the sound of the natural world awakening. We feel raindrops on our heads and shoulders and the cheering warmth of a young sun. We touch the earth as we plant seedlings on a temperate weekend. We welcome the first asparagus.

Fresh asparagus with its lovely tender tops and toothsome bottoms is one of the first vegetables to emerge in the spring. While we’ll enjoy asparagus throughout the summer, its first blush of flavor is fleeting, and that makes it all the more wonderful. And so, this recipe.

Farfalle with Asparagus Tops and Herbs is a delicate pasta dish in which the farfalle, or butterflies, float in a simple chicken broth. It’s nice to serve in the early spring when asparagus is at its peak and we’re ready for lighter fare.

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The trick to this brothy pasta dish is using the thinnest asparagus you can find. Serve it as a first course or a light lunch. 

Serves 4

1 pound thin asparagus
Kosher salt
1 pound farfalle (butterfly-shaped) pasta
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Trim off the tough ends of the asparagus and discard. Cut the spears on the diagonal into 1-inch pieces; reserve.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 2 generous pinches of salt and when the water returns to a boil, add the pasta. Cook according to package directions until the pasta is al dente. Drain the pasta and return to the pot.; cover to keep warm.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the asparagus and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the wine and the chicken broth, bring to a boil, and cook for 5 minutes to reduce it a bit. Add the herbs and stir to mix. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Add the asparagus mixture to the pasta and toss to coat with the broth. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. 

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