Pasta Salad with Asparagus
- 1 lb shell pasta
- 5 oz asparagus
- 5 oz cherry tomatoes
- 3 ½ oz mozzarella cheese
- 1 ½ tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
- 2 sprigs fresh oregano
- 3 ½ tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- salt and pepper
Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water and drain when “al dente”,generally one minute before the time indicated on the package.
Transfer pasta to a bowl and drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil. Stir and let cool.
Wash the tomatoes and cut them into wedges or in half depending on their size.
Then clean the asparagus eliminating the tough part of the stem. Tie into bunches and place asparagus in a tall, narrow pot standing up on end. Fill the pot with cold water 2/3rds of the way up the asparagus stalks.
Then cook for 8 minutes from when the water begins to boil. As soon as they are done, drain and stop the cooking by immersing briefly in cold water then drain once more.
Prepare a simple sauce by emulsifying the oil, balsamic and wine vinegars, salt and pepper. Add the oregano leaves, mixing well, but gently using either a hand or electric whisk.
In a salad bowl, mix the pasta with the asparagus, roughly chopped.
Add diced mozzarella and tomato wedges. Dress with the sauce, mix carefully, and serve.
Asparagus is a plant originally from Mesopotamia that was brought to the Mediterranean by the Egyptians. Further spread by the Greeks, asparagus was even sited by Theophrastus in his “History of Plants”, written in the 4th century ac. The Romans, however, were probably the first civilization to eat asparagus for its flavor, rather than its therapeutic properties. In fact, in the Satires, Juvenal described the various types of asparagus found on the Italian peninsula, while Cesar tasted asparagus for the first time in Lombardy, where they were often served, covered in butter.
With the fall of the Roman Empire, asparagus cultivation decline to the point of almost disappeared entirely from the table. It wasn’t until the late Middle Ages that they became popular for a brief time among the elite, who believed that asparagus was an aphrodisiac – a claim backed by the famous Scuola Medica Salernitata. It is perhaps for this reason that Louis XIV, the Sun King, had special greenhouses built so that he could eat asparagus even in the winter. Also, it is believed that Napoleon III would postpone romantic encounters with his lovers if he couldn’t eat asparagus beforehand.
Did you known that…
Even back in the Roman Age, people knew to cook asparagus just for a few minutes? Suetonius once compared a quick military attack of Emperor Augustus to the time it takes to cook asparagus.
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