Meatless Monday – Penne Pasta with Asparagus & Kale

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Thinking green for tomorrow?  Asparagus is in season, so it must be spring!  Hey it’s a spring vegetable and I’ve always considered asparagus a harbinger of spring even though I know spring doesn’t officially begin until the 2oth.  My Dad used to pile us kids into the car on sunny spring Saturday mornings, and head out to the countryside, armed with sharp knives and plastic bread bags (which ‘back in the day’ were used for everything including snow shoe coverings) to ‘hunt’ for wild asparagus.  Of course, now I know that some of the fields were really abandoned asparagus farms that were turned into open space after big business moved in, which was why asparagus were so abundant and easy for little kids to find.  Sometimes we would feel inclined to sample a particularly tender young spear right on the spot.  My brothers and sisters and I loved the hunter-gatherer experience and would return home flush with our victory spoils.  Then my Mom would make a huge pile of steamed asparagus for dinner.  Yum!   Just for fun I found a photo of asparagus growing in the wild compliments of Wild Asparagus Growing.  Brings back memories.

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This pasta dish is so delicious and it’s simplicity is refreshing in that it has minimal ingredients and you can have dinner on the table in 20 minutes or less.  That already makes it a big winner in my book… however, we can also talk about how good it is for you too.  You already know that Kale is a nutritional powerhouse packed with vitamins and minerals.  But did you know that kale has more health benefitting phytochemicals than an other leafy green veggie?  Yeah, there’s a reason so many people are riding the kale train.

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Asparagus is no slouch itself.  Here are five things you may not know about asparagus:

  1. It’s loaded with nutrients: Asparagus is a very good source of fiber, folate, vitamins A, C, E and K, as well as chromium, a trace mineral that enhances the ability of insulin to transport glucose from the bloodstream into cells.
  2. It is a particularly rich source of glutathione, a detoxifying compound that helps break down carcinogens and other harmful compounds like free radicals.
  3. Asparagus is packed with antioxidants, ranking among the top fruits and vegetables for its ability to neutralize cell-damaging free radicals. This, according to preliminary research, may help slow the aging process.
  4. Another anti-aging property of this delicious spring veggie is that it may help our brains fight cognitive decline. Like leafy greens, asparagus delivers folate, which works with vitamin B12—found in fish, poultry, meat and dairy—to help prevent cognitive impairment. In a study from Tufts University, older adults with healthy levels of folate and B12 performed better on a test of response speed and mental flexibility. (If you’re 50-plus, be sure you’re getting enough B12: your ability to absorb it decreases with age.)
  5. One more benefit of asparagus: It contains high levels of the amino acid asparagine, which serves as a natural diuretic, and increased urination not only releases fluid but helps rid the body of excess salts. This is especially beneficial for people who suffer from edema (an accumulation of fluids in the body’s tissues) and those who have high blood pressure or other heart-related diseases.

So there you have it.  Simple, delicious and will make you live longer and healthier, younger and smarter.  What a combo!  Eat up!

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PENNE PASTA WITH ASPARAGUS AND KALE

3/4 lb penne pasta (preferably whole grain)
1 small bunch kale
1 bunch asparagus
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 Tbsn butter
1 Tbsn olive oil
1/2 cup scallions or spring onions, chopped
zest from one lemon
1 Tbsn fresh thyme
1/4 cup parmesan, shredded or flaked

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  • Cook pasta according to directions.  Scoop out and reserve 1/2 cup pasta water before draining. Wash and prepare vegetables.

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  • Stack kale leaves and slice them sideways into julienne strips.  If your kale has a prominent center rib, remove it first. Discard the stems.

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  • Saute the kale and garlic in the butter and oil for several minutes.

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  • Cut the asparagus into 2 inch pieces and add to kale. Saute for about 5 minutes. Kale should be soft and asparagus softened but still slightly al dente.

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  • Turn off heat and add lemon zest, spring onions and thyme and stir

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  • Add pasta and parmesan, if using, and toss to combine, adding pasta water to desired consistency.

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  • To serve, top with more parmesan, if desired.

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Penne Pasta with Asparagus and Kale

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

 20150310_195733

3/4  lb penne pasta (preferably whole grain)
1 small bunch kale
1 bunch asparagus
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 Tbsn butter
1 Tbsn olive oil
1/2 cup scallions or spring onions, chopped
zest from one lemon
1 Tbsn fresh thyme
1/4 cup parmesan, shredded or flaked

  • Cook pasta according to directions.  Scoop out and reserve 1/2 cup pasta water before draining.
  • Stack kale leaves and slice them sideways into julienne strips.  If your kale has a prominent center rib, remove it first. Discard the stems.
  • Saute the kale in the butter and oil for several minutes.
  • Cut the asparagus into 2 inch pieces and add to kale. Saute for about 5 minutes. Kale should be soft and asparagus softened but still slightly al dente.
  • Turn off heat and add lemon zest, spring onions and thyme and stir
  • Add pasta and parmesan, toss to combine, adding pasta water to desired consistency.
  • Top with more parmesan, if desired.

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