Although I didn’t launch this whole project until March 1, I started planning it in early January. One of the best parts was making lists of different types of mac & cheese I could make throughout the year. In particular, I had visions of strolling through the Farmers’ Markets this summer and picking out different kinds of veggies that I could roast and add in. Outside of Hanford, agriculture is the dominant industry in this area, and we have several great farmer’s market options from May through October.
One of the things I really wanted to try was an asparagus mac. We get terrific asparagus and it sounded fresh and appealing, especially in January, dreaming of warmer days.
Of course, all that was before the COVID-19 outbreak shut almost everything down. Our first local market usually opens the first Saturday in May, and I’d been wondering if that would still happen – it sounds like it will, because, of course, access to food is essential – but I’m not sure how comfortable I’m going to be going out with crowds of people in just a couple of weeks.
So it was very lucky for me that a neighbor of my parents’ knocked on their door the other day and offered them a bucket of asparagus picked just that morning; and that my parents, being the generous types, shared with their children. I actually had planned a different recipe this week, but this was too good an offer, and the other one will keep!
Asparagus Prosciutto Mac
Adapted from Fine Cooking
- 12 ounces asparagus, trimmed and cut into bite-size chunks (see notes)
- 8 ounces elbow macaroni
- 4 Tbsp. butter
- 5 ounces evaporated milk (not the fat-free kind)
- 2 large eggs
- 6 ounces grated Gruyere cheese (see notes)
- 2 ounces thin-sliced prosciutto, cut crosswise into thin strips (see notes)
- 2 Tbsp. chopped chives or green onion stems
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add asparagus. (The recipe said 4-quarts of water – this was WAY more than needed, next time I would use a regular pan, not my huge stockpot.) Add asparagus and cook to preferred level of tenderness, anywhere from 3-6 minutes. I like it pretty tender, so I kept it in the water the full time. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
- While the asparagus is cooking, combine the evaporated milk, eggs, and a pinch of salt and whisk until well combined. It will have kind of a custardy appearance.
- After removing the asparagus, return the water to boiling – it will probably be green, but that’s OK! – and add the pasta. Cook approximately 8-10 minutes, again to preferred level of tenderness; drain, and return to the pot.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the butter, stirring until it melts.
- Add the custard sauce and continue cooking over medium-low heat until the sauce coats the pasta.
- Stir in the cheese and cook until it melts.
- Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the asparagus, prosciutto, and chives.
This is really good! And pretty convenient – everything is done in the same pot, cutting down on the cleanup. Other than minor changes (below in the notes), I followed the recipe pretty closely, so I boiled the asparagus, but I definitely still want to try it at some point with it roasted. The cheese is fairly mild, so the prosciutto adds a nice salty touch. Definitely a keeper!
- I cut the asparagus into pretty small pieces because that’s my preference, plus these were fairly good-sized stalks (not like the wimpy skinny ones you get at the grocery store). Skinnier asparagus should probably be longer lengths to avoid overcooking.
- The recipe called for fontina cheese, but I could not find that at either of the stores I’ve been to on my last couple of weekly outings, so I substituted Gruyere. It also only called for 5 ounces, but the block I had was 6 ounces and it seemed silly not to use the whole thing. More cheese is always a good thing, right?
- The recipe only called for one ounce of prosciutto, which didn’t seem like much (I really like prosciutto) so I doubled it. The package I had was three ounces, and it’s quite likely that I will cut up what’s left and add it in as well. Prosciutto is not the most “slicing” friendly ingredient – it likes to stick to itself. I’m wondering if sticking it in the freezer for a little while beforehand would help?
Posted April 26, 2020