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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.


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!