Nothing says spring like asparagus.

There’s no better way to clear out winter than serving fresh, green foods.

Asparagus is one of my favorite early spring vegetables.

Packed with fiber, folate and vitamins A, C, E and K, asparagus is widely recognized as a food that can help ward off several kinds of cancer and slow the effects of aging. Because asparagus contains high levels of the amino acid asparagine, which serves as a natural diuretic, eating it also helps me keep my weight-loss goals on track.

Asparagus can be eaten raw, but I enjoy it best steamed or grilled so make it less tough.

Often served as a side dish, asparagus becomes the star of this creamy alfredo pasta. I found the recipe a few years ago in Eating Well magazine and I look forward to cooking it each spring after I buy my first batch of farm-fresh asparagus.

Enjoy this dish and the others featured on today’s page and welcome spring with each bite.


Serves: 6

8 ounces whole-wheat penne pasta

1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into ¾-inch pieces

1½ cups whole milk

4 teaspoons whole-grain mustard

4 teaspoons flour

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

2 teaspoons olive oil

3 tablespoons minced garlic

2 teaspoons minced fresh tarragon, or ½ teaspoon dried

1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest

2 teaspoons lemon juice

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 3 minutes less than the package directions. Add asparagus and cook until the pasta and asparagus are just tender, 3 minutes more. Drain and return to the pot.

Meanwhile, whisk milk, mustard, flour, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant and lightly browned, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Whisk in the milk mixture. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly, and cook until thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in tarragon, lemon zest and juice.

Stir the sauce into the pasta-asparagus mixture. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until the sauce is thick, creamy and coats the pasta, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in ¼ cup Parmesan. Divide the pasta among 4 bowls and top with the remaining ¼ cup Parmesan.

Make it a meal: Serve with a salad of sliced fresh mozzarella and cherry tomatoes tossed with a little fresh basil, balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

Nutrition per serving: 359 calories; 10 g fat (4 g sat, 4 g mono); 18 mg cholesterol; 55 g carbohydrates; 18 g protein; 7 g fiber; 602 mg sodium; 467 mg potassium.

Source: Eating Well June/July 2006

M. Clare Haefner enjoys cooking for family and friends. Contact her at or 254-501-7551.

Contact M. Clare Haefner at or (254) 501-7551.

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