It’s hard for me to believe, but I’ve been at this food blogging thing for almost nine months now. It’s been such a whirlwind, and has become such a regular part of my life, that it’s hard for me to remember a time when I wasn’t writing about food a few times a week. As the blog has grown in popularity, I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of a few really exciting things…and I am so thankful!
If you follow Chew Nibble Nosh on Facebook, you may have heard me mention from time to time that I’m also posting regularly to a site called HalfHourMeals.com. Half Hour Meals is a great recipe resource and I’m thrilled to be a part of it. Be sure to check it out when you get a chance. In fact, the good people at Half Hour Meals even interviewed me a few weeks ago for their blog, “Food for Thought”. (If you’d like to read the interview, click here.) It’s a fairly new site, and I’m so excited to be there to watch it grow. And growing it is! With over 30,000 members, and counting, you can be sure that there are tons of fabulous recipes there to choose from, many from home-grown cooks like you and me! Plus, they just launched a (free) app for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch users. Run to the app store and check it out!
Today, I’ve decided to feature a recipe that I ran across on the site a little while ago. This recipe was submitted to the site by member CassieCraves. Cassie has submitted a bunch of delicious recipes to the site, and this one was no exception. In her description, she mentions that this dish combines the flavors of a delicious French Onion soup with a hearty pasta and fresh asparagus. I don’t know about you, but I love French Onion Soup…and pasta…and asparagus, so this sounded like something I needed to try.
One of the keys to that French Onion flavor is caramelized onions. I started by slicing up two, sweet onions and adding them to some melted butter in a pan, along with some minced garlic, fresh thyme, a bay leaf, salt, and pepper.
I cooked the onions for about 30 minutes, over low heat. Low and slow is the way to beautifully caramelized onions, so it does take up a little bit of time. That’s OK, though. While the onions were sizzling away on the stove, I was able to get the pasta and asparagus taken care of.
I washed a pound of fresh asparagus and then sliced the bunch into thirds.
I cooked my pasta according to the directions on the box, but during the last few minutes of boiling time, I added my asparagus to the pot. This was the perfect amount of time to finish up the pasta and cook the asparagus to perfection. Not mushy, but still nice and crisp, and cooked through.
After the onions had caramelized, I stirred in a little bit of flour until they were well coated. Then, I added some beef stock, and scraped up all of the flavor from the bottom of the pan and worked it into the sauce. I brought the mixture to a boil and let it simmer for about 5 minutes, so it could thicken up nicely. Then I added just a bit of heavy cream (not much…just enough to lighten the sauce a bit), and stirred until it was nice and smooth. I removed the bay leaf, stirred my onion sauce into the pasta and asparagus, and poured it all into a baking dish.
(It smelled REALLY good.)
Now, what’s French Onion soup without cheese and a crouton on top, right? That was the next step for the pasta, too!
I sprinkled the pasta with some shredded mozzarella cheese and then stirred together some dry, Italian seasoned breadcrumbs with a little bit of olive oil.
I sprinkled the breadcrumbs over the pasta and into the oven it went, for just a few minutes. Everything is already cooked through, so the oven time is really just to melt the cheese and toast up the top. After about 3 minutes under the broiler, it was ready to eat!
Mmmmm….dinner was gooo-oood! The pasta and asparagus paired perfectly with the French Onion flavors, turning a favorite winter soup into a delicious spring pasta. Thanks, Cassie!
FRENCH ONION AND ASPARAGUS PASTA
Adapted from CassieCraves @ HalfHourMeals.com
- 4 Tbsp. butter
- 2 large, sweet onions, thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tsp. fresh thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- salt and pepper
- 12 oz. penne pasta
- 1 lb. fresh asparagus spears, ends trimmed, and sliced into thirds
- 2 Tbsp. flour
- 1 (14.5 oz.) can beef stock
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- ¾ cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
- Melt the butter in a large pan over medium-low heat. Add the onions, garlic, thyme, and bay leaf and stir to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 20-30 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft and caramel in color.
- Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the directions on the package in boiling, salted water. During the last 4 minutes of cooking time, add the sliced asparagus. Drain the pasta and asparagus, set aside and keep warm. Asparagus should be crisp-tender.
- Once the onions are caramelized, stir in the flour until the onions are well coated. Deglaze the pan with the beef stock, scraping the bottom of the pan and working in all of the browned bits. Increase the heat, bring the mixture to a simmer, and cook for 5 minutes, until mixture thickens a bit. Add the heavy cream. Remove the bay leaf. Add the cooked pasta and asparagus to the sauce and stir carefully to coat.
- Spread the pasta mixture into a 9x13 baking dish that has been sprayed with nonstick spray. Sprinkle with the mozzarella cheese.
- In a small bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs and the olive oil. Sprinkle this mixture over the pasta and cheese.
- Place the dish under the broiler in the oven, and broil for 3-5 minutes, until cheese is melted and the breadcrumbs are perfectly, toasty brown.
- Serves 6-8