Our whole family, especially the little ones, loves bow tie pasta. The cute shape isn't the best way to hold on to sauce, but it’s a welcome change ffrom macaroni or penne. This time, I sautéed the pasta with caramelized onions and spinach and added a few other ingredients. I used grilled Portobello mushrooms for a meaty texture, diced red bell peppers for color and fresh mozzarella for extra creaminess.
The asparagus sauce is an improvisation using leftover asparagus stalks (I used the tips for making risotto). I blended them into a thick sauce and separately cooked onions with diced tomatoes, a few spices and yogurt. The sauce is quite healthy but so flavorful. If you're minding calories, you could omit the mozzarella garnish or use a low-calorie cheese such as feta cheese.
Servings: 6 servings
1 (16-ounce) package bow tie pasta
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons canola oil (or any neutral oil)
2 cloves garlic, crushed and finely minced
3 Portobello mushrooms
2 cups asparagus stalks, chopped
juice of a lemon
¼ cup canned diced fire-roasted tomatoes
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon cumin seeds, slightly toasted
1/8 teaspoon fennel seeds, slightly toasted
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
4 tablespoons whole milk yogurt
1 roasted red bell pepper
1- ½ cups spinach leaves
6 small fresh mozzarella balls, quartered
1-½ tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
¼ cup flat-leaf parsley , chopped
Prepping the Portobello mushrooms: Using the edge of a spoon, scrape and remove the gills of the Portobello mushrooms. Wipe the inside clean using a paper towel (see tips). Lightly coat the mushrooms with oil using a silicone brush. Place the whole mushrooms on a hot grill. Cook until you get grill marks on both sides (about 2-3 minutes on each side). Remove from the grill. Once the mushrooms are cool enough to handle, cut into long strips then cut the strips in half. Place them in a bowl, add 1 tablespoon chopped parsley. Season with salt. Set aside.
Cooking pasta: Bring about 8 quarts of water to a boil. Add the pasta, bring back to a boil, then immediately lower the heat to a gentle boil. Cook the pasta for about 10 minutes. Season with salt and continue cooking for an additional 5-8 minutes. Keep stirring every now and then so the pasta doesn't stick to the bottom. When the pasta is cooked (cooked inside and out but still in shape and firm), reserve about 1/3 cup to ½ cup of pasta water and drain the pasta. Transfer to a large serving bowl.
Prepping the asparagus: Trim about ½ inch from the root of each asparagus. Cut the asparagus into about 2-½" pieces (for even cooking). Place them in boiling water for about 1 minute, then transfer to an ice-cold bath. Drain, pat dry on a paper towel and roughly chop. Drizzle with lemon juice.
Making asparagus sauce:
In a mortar and pestle, combine the black peppercorns, fennel seeds and cumin seeds. Grind into a fine powder.
In a large non-stick pan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil. Once the oil is hot, add the sliced onions. Cook until translucent and soft. Add the spices. Cook for another 1-2 minutes, then reserve about 2 tablespoons of the caramelized onions. Set aside.
Add the tomatoes to the remaining onions, mustard and yogurt. Cook for about 3-5 minutes over low heat. Remove and let cool completely.
Transfer the tomato mixture into a mini-blender (or regular blender) and blend until the sauce is smooth. You could add a little pasta water for a smoother flow. Add the asparagus and blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
In the same pan, heat the rest of the oil. Add the garlic and cook until slightly golden. Add the bow tie pasta and reserved onions. Toss the pasta by shaking the pan for about 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. If the pasta starts sticking to the bottom, add a little of the reserved pasta water. Add the spinach, Portobello mushrooms and roasted red bell peppers. Toss well. The spinach leaves will start to wilt. Turn off the heat. Add the asparagus sauce. Toss well. Let it sit for about 5-10 minutes. Add the mozzarella and 1 tablespoon of parsley. Adjust seasoning if necessary.
Garnish with the remaining parsley.
Grilled Portobello mushrooms.
Check out more pasta recipes.
I used yogurt for a healthier version of creamy pasta. You could replace it with béchamel sauce or crème fraîche.
Removing the gills of the mushrooms prevents the dish from turning dark once cooked. This step is only for the appearance of the dish and does not affect the flavors.
The yellow hue comes from the turmeric powder.
You could also use ground fennel seeds and ground cumin to save time. I like the subtle licorice flavor in the sauce.