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Craig Claiborne's Pasta con Asparagi

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Every week -- often with your help -- Food52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.

Today: A mashup of all the best pasta sauces -- tomato, asparagus, and carbonara -- with surprisingly harmonious results. 



Despite (or maybe because of) a sluggish spring, you've probably already been hitting the asparagus pretty hard -- blanching and feathering it, slipping it into your pasta under pools of ricotta.

But have you had it with tomatoes?

Doubtful, because that would be goofy. Tomatoes are born in August, asparagus in May. Their biological clocks weren't designed to go together.

More: How to Prep Asparagus

But Craig Claiborne was too clever a cook to follow the easy paint-by-season path to recipe development, matching peas with asparagus and tomatoes with sweet corn. He knew how to clash, gracefully.

craig claiborne  nyt cookbook

Thankfully, we've learned to salvage tomatoes from late summer and give them eternal life in cans. And while they'd be of no use in a caprese, they have every right to be in sauce all year long. 

canned tomatoes

Even with asparagus! Its grassy pop is surprisingly at home in a bed of sweet-sour tomato sauce, mellowed with a last-minute addition of beaten eggs, à la carbonara.


Oh, you haven't done that either? Beaten raw eggs into your tomato asparagus sauce? Well, it's about time. (Claiborne was doing it in 1979 -- we're behind!) A little egg pulls the sauce together, glossing it up without muffling it like heavy cream would do.



Maybe the most genius part: As Food52er monkeymom pointed out when she sent me this recipe, this is essentially a highly adaptable pantry pasta supper, with addition of fresh asparagus (which is sort of a staple this time of year anyway). 

But by rearranging your pantry staples just so, dinner turns out elegant and new. So go on: break free of the season. Clash a little. 

pasta con asparagi

Craig Claiborne's Pasta con Asparagi

Adapted slightly from The New New York Times Cookbook (Crown, 1979)

Serves 8 

1 1/2 pound fresh asparagus
3 tablespoons butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic
2 cups canned Italian plum tomatoes, put through a sieve or grated coarsely
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
3/4 pounds penne, rigatoni, or other tubular pasta
2 eggs, plus one yolk, beaten well with a fork
1/2 cup grated parmesan

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].

Photos by James Ransom

Tags: Pantry, Asparagus, Spring, Long Reads, Editors' Picks, Genius Recipes, Genius