Simmer a ragu for hours if that's what floats your boat, but a well-seasoned plate of pasta with asparagus and parmesan always hits the spot in spring. And it's on the table in minutes.
1 bunch asparagus (about 8-10 spears), woody ends trimmed
500g dried fettuccine
¼ cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 eschallot (or ½ a small brown onion), finely minced
75g finely grated parmesan
4 eggs (optional)
black pepper, to taste
1. With a vegetable peeler, peel the asparagus into thin strips (the spear tips will break off after a few peels, but just add them to the pile of strips).
2. Boil the pasta in salted water according to the packet directions. While the pasta is cooking, heat a frying pan large enough to hold all the pasta and asparagus over medium heat and add the oil. Fry the garlic and eschallot until fragrant, then add the asparagus, frying for about a minute until softened.
3. When the pasta is al dente, remove it with tongs and add directly to the frying pan with the asparagus. Add ¼ cup of the pasta water and about half of the parmesan, stirring well over medium heat until the pasta water, oil and parmesan combine to form a sauce.
4. If using, poach the eggs in the remaining pasta water by pouring out most of the water until about 3cm remains in the pot, then adding the eggs directly to the hot water on low heat and poaching until the whites are just set. Serve the pasta with a poached egg nestled in the centre of each plate. Top with a good grind of black pepper and the remaining parmesan.
If you like this recipe, try Neil perry's pasta with asparagus, chilli and garlic.