Farmers Market Challenge: Asparagus & Sausage Pasta Bowl

Feeling inspired by our favorite cooking challenge shows, Amanda and I decided this week to give ourselves a bit of a challenge. Since I needed to get out and discover more of the area in which I live, and the warmer weather was in full swing, we decided on a farmers market challenge. The rules: try and get as many ingredients to create a dish from your local farmers’ market as you can. Everything in the dish must be made with something from the market with a few exceptions. The protein, salt & pepper, and three other ingredients to be personally determined could be used in addition to the fresh market items. It seemed simple…until I went to the market.

Let’s just say, the turnout was a bit underwhelming. There was one vendor of vegetables, and not much variety at that. However, the real treat of the day was a local farm selling their own meat. We picked up some locally produced pork sausages from this vendor, and then traipsed over to the vegetable cart to acquire some asparagus and garlic. This was my not so impressive haul from the market, although I suspect with the recent flooding in the area that it might not be typical. Needless to say, I looked at my purchases like a stressed-out contestant on Chopped, wondering what to do next. There was also a chocolate covered pretzel purchased, but that was promptly eaten on the ride home.

In the end, I used my three TBD ingredients (lemon, pasta and saffron) to put together this surprisingly quick and easy pasta dish and I will definitely be keeping it in mind for future weeknight dinners. The sausage added so much flavor that no other seasonings we needed, although the saffron did add a nice flavor if desired. I gobbled up this meal more enthusiastically and more quickly than many others I had made for this, and cleanup was a breeze.

Ingredients: 

  • 4 oz small pasta, I used rotini, but orzo or shells would work too.
  • Water for boiling.
  • 15 threads of saffron (optional)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2-3 chicken or pork sausages of your choice, sliced into 1/2 inch slices
  • 10-15 stalks of asparagus, chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced.
  • Freshly squeezed juice of half of a lemon
  • Pepper to Taste

Instructions:

  1. In a large pot, add enough cold water to handle the amount of pasta you have, probably no less than 1 quart, but more if needed. Add the saffron threads if using and the salt, and bring to a boil.
  2. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 6-10 minutes depending on your pasta. Once finished, strain the pasta, but do  not rinse.
  3. While the pasta is boiling, add the sausage slices to a skillet over medium heat and allow to brown for about 3-4 minutes. Add the asparagus and the garlic, which should be able to cook in the rendered fat from the sausages.
  4. Cook over medium heat for another 4-5 minutes until the asparagus is bright green and everything is cooked through.
  5. Add the drained pasta and stir to incorporate and re-warm the pasta.
  6. Remove from heat, add lemon juice, stir and serve! Top with pepper to taste.

Wine Pairing: This dish just seems so spring-like to me, maybe because of the journey to the market and eating on a warm spring evening before the sun sets. Because of this, a chilled glass of pinot gris just feels right. 

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