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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Frugal Cooking: Asparagus Encore and Breadcrumb Pasta

So, Duchesse of Passage des Perles suggested in a comment the other day that I roast my asparagus. After some mental whining (I don't have time to preheat my oven; YOU have an Aga; it's not "green" to heat up a big oven for a few veggies), I realized that I could roast the asparagus in my toaster oven. Break off the ends, wash them, put in pan with some olive oil, salt, and pepper. 15-20 minutes at 350.

What to have with them? In my quest to find the world's cheapest good--make that great--food, I discovered breadcrumbs for pasta. The immediate impetus for my search was, as might be expected in a bread-baking household, an abundance of dried bread. Bread crumb pasta is, no doubt, part of Italian cucina povera, poverty food. Breadcrumbs sauteed in garlicky oil serve as a substitute for parmesan cheese, which is very expensive in Italy (and every where else, deservedly so, I might add).

I cooked half a pound of pasta. I chose some good linguine, an Italian brand that claimed to be made with bronze dies. True gourmet fare, but I found this at Big Lots for a little more than $1.00/pound.

Meanwhile, I was sauteeing the breadcrumbs (about 1 1/2 cups made from good bread) in the garlicky oil (3 cloves) to which I added some red pepper flakes.

When all is done, simply drain the pasta, add some olive oil, then the breadcrumbs. Since cucina povera is an option for us rather than a necessity, we grated some parmesan (the real thing) on top.

We knew the pasta would be good. But the true delight was the roasted asparagus. Thank you, Duchesse: you are my mentor.

Dear readers, what do you do with asparagus? Do you have an amazingly cheap pasta sauce? Do share.

4 comments:

Funny about Money said...

Yum! Gooood crunchy garlic bread crumbs, gooood asparagus.

I also love to roast asparagus in the oven. Wish I had enough room on the countertops for a toaster oven. The way I try to justify cranking up the oven for a handful of asparagus spears is simply to put something else in to cook with them. You can put a little minced garlic in with the olive oil to good effect, BTW.

If I'm grilling meat on the BBQ, sometimes I'll wrap the washed asparagi in tinfoil. Sprinkle with a little olive oil, season with nutmeg, salt, & pepper. Wrap tight and put on the grill while the meat is cooking. Have to be careful not to scorch them: try putting them near the back or sides where they're not directly over the coals (or burners). It takes a little practice to get them to come out just right.

thriceforme said...

I really enjoy asparagus when it's grilled. I usually put it right on the grill for a few minutes while grilling meat, and I top the spears with salt and pepper, melted butter, and on occasion, parmesan cheese.

As far as the sauce goes, I really enjoy Hunts canned tomato sauce. It is roughly $1.00 per 29-ounce can. The basic flavor is good (I tend to like a tart flavor over a sweet), but I always add more spices to spruce things up.

Caren said...
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Frugal Scholar said...

@Funny and Thrice--I don't have a grill, but I guess I have to get one!