Ciao Italia: My Lifelong Food Adventures in Italy
Mary Ann's newest book contains over 150 recipes, 60 gorgeous food photos, and many scenic pictures of Italy taken by Mary Ann on her travels through the years.
In the spring, I seek out asparagus. I look for solid, stately bundles wrapped with string, sitting in neat rows, perched atop crushed ice. I buy the very thin asparagus because they remind me so much of the slender ones of Umbria. When I get my bundle home, I make this quick and creamy soup, using the cooking water from the asparagus.
1 1/4 pounds asparagus
2 cups water
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
3 large shallots, diced
1/4 cup light cream
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
Cut off the tough ends of the asparagus and discard. Place the asparagus in a sauté pan with the water. Cover the pot, bring the asparagus to a gentle boil, and cook for 3 or 4 minutes (depending on size), just until a knife easily pierces the stem end.
Drain the asparagus in a colander over a bowl, reserving the cooking water. When cool, cut the asparagus into 1-inch pieces. Dice some of the pieces to equal ½ cup and set aside.
In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook slowly until they begin to soften. Add all the asparagus except the ½ cup, and continue to cook for about 4 minutes, or until the asparagus is very soft.
Transfer the mixture to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Return the mixture to the saucepan, add 1 1/2 cups of the reserved cooking water, cream, and salt. Cook slowly, stirring with a wooden spoon to blend the ingredients. Add the reserved diced asparagus. If the mixture appears too thick, add a bit more of the cooking water. Serve immediately.
Note: Sometimes I add diced prosciutto, sautéed in butter until crisp, as a garnish.
This recipe is from NELLA CUCINA by Mary Ann Esposito, published by William Morrow and Company, Inc., in 1993.