shells with ham, asparagus and lemon cream
Spring hasn’t quite sprung. But it’s coming. With daylight savings time and longer days, there is the sense that a change is on the horizon. So even if the thermometer hasn’t topped fifty degrees in your neck of the woods, there is the promise that it will. Soon. Of course, in South Florida the changes are more subtle, but as someone who’s lived here for twenty-five years, I can attest to them.
Besides, even if you can’t feel the change in seasons yet, it’s evident in the produce available at the market. Vegetables that I paid a premium for in January and February are suddenly available in such abundance that the prices have tumbled by nearly half. Take asparagus — this winter it was $4.99/lb and shipped in from Peru. Now, it’s $2.49/lb. and the product is better. Instead of thick, woody stems, we’re getting pencil thin, crisp stalks. Perfect. As the season progresses, it will only get better. I can’t wait.
So in a nod to spring and spring vegetables, I put together this little pasta dish, which tastes light and fresh, but is also warm and comforting at the same time. Perfect for this in-between weather. It’s a blend of all of my favorites, and I suspect they might be some of yours too. Mushrooms, ham, asparagus, sun-dried tomatoes and shell pasta, bound in a light lemony-cream sauce with parmesan cheese — yum!
It’s so good in fact, that after her first bite, Emily claimed the leftovers for lunch the next day. This one’s a definite keeper.
- 1/2 pound asparagus, trimmed, cut into one inch pieces
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 pound button mushrooms, wiped clean, sliced into bite size pieces
- 1 cup diced yellow onion
- 1 cup diced ham
- 1/2 cup diced sun dried tomatoes, (drained if oil-packed, reconstituted and drained if dried)
- zest of one lemon
- 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
- 1/4 cup half and half
- salt and pepper to taste.
- 1/2 pound shell pasta
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh italian parsley
- In a medium sauce pan, boil 2 cups of water. Add asparagus and cook for 3-4 minutes until crisp tender. While asparagus blanches, fill a medium-sized bowl with ice and water. Drain asparagus and plunge into the ice water to stop the cooking.
- Fill a 3 quart saucepan with water and a pinch of salt. Heat to boiling. Add shells and cook until al dente according to package directions.
- Meanwhile, In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add mushrooms and cook until lightly browned. Transfer mushrooms to a bowl. Add onion to the pan and cook until lightly browned. Transfer to the mushrooms.
- Add butter to the pan and melt over medium high heat. Add flour and whisk to combine, stirring for one minute. Add chicken broth a little at a time, stirring constantly. Cook until mixture begins to thicken and takes on the consistency of a sauce. Stir in half and half and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper. Add vegetables and pasta to the sauce and heat through. Add 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, basil and parsley and stir to combine.
- Serve with remaining parmesan as a garnish.