Penne Bake with Asparagus

I liked the look of the Pasta & Spinach Bake posted on Eat this a few days ago. Then I was perusing old issues of bon appetit and noticed their Baked Penne with Farmhouse Cheddar & Leeks (March 2009). All this put me in the mind of the 21st Century Mac & Cheese that I posted about a few months ago. I realized that if I have cheese, pasta and a vegetable, I'm good to go. Here's what I came up with, using asparagus and beet greens as my vegetable.


1 bunch asparagus
1 pound (or more) whole wheat penne
1 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup flour
2.5 cups milk
1/2 pound (or more) grated cheddar, as sharp as you can afford
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup grated parmesan
greens from 3 beets, coarsely chopped
handful assorted herbs, chopped (I used parsley, oregano, marjoram & winter savory)
salt, pepper
cooking spray (or just oil)--for your casserole dish

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile rinse the asparagus and snap off the woody ends. (I know Julia Child recommends trimming these with a vegetable peeler instead of discarding, but I can't be bothered.) When the water boils, throw in the asparagus for 5 minutes. Remove asparagus with tongs (so as to keep all that hot water).
  3. Drain the asparagus in a colander and refresh with cold water to stop the cooking. Set aside. Meanwhile, put the pasta to boil. (Probably good to salt the water, too.) Boil for 10 minutes, drain. (I drizzle with olive oil to prevent sticking since I can be a slow worker.)
  4. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and sauté until glossy, then add the garlic. After a couple minutes, add the flour. Everything may become a bit gummy and dry--that's OK. Stir together gently but thoroughly, then add the milk.
  5. Heat the milk for a couple minutes and keep stirring. When it starts to simmer, add a handful of the grated cheddar and turn down the heat. Have the beaten egg in a separate bowl and put in a cup of the milk/cheese mixture, about 1/4 cup at a time. Whisk between each addition. Once incorporated, stir the egg mixture back into the main milk mixture.
  6. Stir the rest of the cheddar and the parmesan into the milk mixture. Then add the herbs, the beet greens, and ALL THAT PASTA. Things will start to be pasta-heavy at this point--just keep stirring until everything is evenly mixed. Add salt & pepper too.
  7. Oil 2 oven dishes. I used a small dutch oven and a square glass brownie pan. Spoon the mixture into the oven dishes. (This is where I also topped everything with about 16 crumbled saltines that I mixed with 3 T melted butter. I'd say this is optional though, not an integral part of the recipe.) Bake half an hour.
It tasted great, despite this rotten picture.

Parting note: I read that asparagus is one of those vegetables that doesn't necessarily have to be organic--it's not too chemical-laden if you buy the conventional version. This huge bunch of asparagus cost $2.99, which I thought was pretty good.

1 comment:

My Little Space said...

Haven't try this recipe before! I think I'll try this cause your's one look delicious!