Gemelli with Brown Butter & Asparagus
- 2 Tbs. salt, plus more, to taste
- 1 lb. asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 1 cup hazelnuts, toasted, skinned and coarsely chopped
- 1 lb. gemelli or other short pasta, such as penne
- Freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the 2 Tbs. salt and the asparagus and cook just until tender, about 4 minutes. Using a skimmer or slotted spoon, transfer the asparagus to a colander and drain; set aside. Return the water to a boil.
Make the sauce
In a large fry pan over low heat, melt the butter. When it stops foaming and the solids begin to separate, use a shallow spoon to skim off most of the solids. Cook until the butter is lightly browned, about 2 minutes; be careful that it does not burn. Add the hazelnuts and season with salt. Add the asparagus and toss. Remove from the heat.
Cook the pasta
Meanwhile, add the pasta to the boiling water. Cook, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until al dente, according to the package instructions. Drain, reserving about 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the sauce and toss to combine. Warm briefly over low heat to blend the flavors. Add as much of the cooking water as needed to loosen the sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Top with the cheese and serve immediately. Serves 4.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Food Made Fast Series, Pasta, by Julia della Croce (Oxmoor House, 2006).