Mary Contini Recipe: Pasta with Asparagus

Oh no. My worst nightmare ! ‘Loss of taste and smell’!!!

An unexpected dizziness, runny nose and sneezing prompted me to take a Covid test which showed 2 distinctive blue stripes. Positive!

Isolation, bed rest, canceled appointments, isolation.

Thank God and the NHS for the vaccination program. The virus is in my system,

and I know that the immunity already built up by vaccines has given me the ability to

fight it.

Now on day five, with most of the symptoms gone, I’m left with a scratchy throat, a strange metallic sensation

taste in the mouth and no smell.

I stopped eating, ate chicken broth and toast, but now I crave something sweet

and comforting and filled with goodness and flavors that I hope I can taste a little.


A handful of seasonal asparagus or 2 tablespoons of frozen peas

80g tagliarini or egg spaghettini

Butter without salt

1 shallot or small onion, very finely chopped

2 tablespoons grated Pecorino Sardo or Parmigiano Reggiano

zest of half an untreated lemon

a squeeze of lemon juice

double cream

Finely chopped fresh mint and flat-leaf parsley

Freshly grated black pepper.


Start by cutting the asparagus.

Hold the top end of the rod and break where it naturally breaks.

Discard the bottom of the stem which will be woody and of course.

Use a peeler to remove the spears along the stem.

Break off the end florets and use a sharp knife to cut the stems into bite-sized pieces, cutting

stems thick lengthwise also.

Prepare a pot of boiling salted water.

Add asparagus and cook 5 to 8 minutes.

Use a sieve or slotted spoon to remove, refresh in cold water, drain and set aside.

Now add the pasta to the same boiling water which is now asparagus flavored and contains some

vitamins, stir and cook for the time indicated on the packet to cook it al dente.

Melt the butter in a large skillet and add the shallots. Cook gently until softened and


Add the drained asparagus or frozen peas, stir in the butter and add a few tablespoons of

cooking water.

Add the grated cheese and turn over low heat to allow the cheese to melt and begin to form a sauce.

Use tongs to transfer the pasta to the skillet.

Transform everything together.

Add lemon zest, lemon juice and a swirl of double cream.

Check the seasoning and add plenty of freshly grated black pepper.

Mix everything and finally add the chopped parsley and mint.

Hold on tight. xxx

Mary Contini OBE is editor and director of Valvona & Crolla ltd. We are happy to welcome you again in our CaffèBar and shop, open all day. Reserve and order online:

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