Orzo with Asparagus, Mascarpone and Chives

The other day I asked K to pick up a bunch of asparagus. Now, I meant one bundle of asparagus. He thought I meant a lot of asparagus so he brought home three bundles. Reminds me of the time I asked him to bring home zucchini and he bought a cucumber. Cutie :). So, having a lot of asparagus on hand, I decided to make my favorite dish that celebrates roasted asparagus. I love the fabulous flavor that develops from roasting asparagus, as opposed to steaming or sautéing it. Although, in my opinion you can’t really go wrong with asparagus unless you overcook it—that is just wrong.

Asparagus is one of my favorite vegetables. They are sweet and tender and work with so many different flavor profiles. They are an excellent source of vitamin K, folate, vitamin C and vitamin A. Asparagus is great for heart health, nourishes our digestive tract and it’s high folate content is essential for expecting mothers. Asparagus also contains fiber, many B vitamins and is an excellent anti-inflammatory.

Print Recipe
  • 2 pounds asparagus, trimmed and cut on a diagonal into small pieces (about 6 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound orzo*
  • 1 8-ounce container mascarpone cheese
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • sea salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450°F. Place asparagus on a baking dish and toss to coat with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until asparagus is tender, about 10 minutes. (Can be prepared ahead; let stand at room temperature.)

Cook orzo in large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain orzo, reserving 1 cup cooking water. Return orzo to the pot and stir in mascarpone, 2/3 grated Parmesan cheese, asparagus and 3 tablespoons chives. Toss over medium-low heat until pasta is coated with sauce and mixture is heated through, adding reserved cooking water by 1/4 cupfuls until the sauce is to your liking. (I usually use ¾ of cooking water total because the orzo soaks up the sauce. Although it looks moist in the beginning, it definitely needs the extra water to keep it from drying out.) This should take about 3 minutes.

Mound orzo in a large shallow serving bowl. Sprinkle with almonds and remaining chives and Parmesan

* If you are not eating gluten, this recipe can easily be made with your favorite grain or gluten-free pasta. The best gluten-free pasta I have ever had is Jovial.

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