Saffron Risoni Noodles with White Asparagus and Crispy Shredded Ham
Another dish full of Mediterranean sun for supper this evening- and doesn't this look good? Simple, delicious and quick to make, this saffron-infused asparagus and risoni noodle dish is a satisfying and yet light meal- perfect for those Spring evenings!
With just a few stalks of left-over asparagus, a couple of cupfuls of pasta and a last slice of Black Forest ham, I whipped up this little meal and settled down to a most enjoyable evening... I can recommend you do that too sometime soon! And this is how...
The first thing I did was to peel the asparagus and to boil the removed peel for 5-6 minutes- it will give off lots of good flavor that can be added to the pasta later! Drain the liquid off through a sieve and pour it over your saffron to release its wonderful flavor. Do not add the saffron to the frying pan and sautée it with the sofritto later, as saffron is water soluble and if it gets coated in oil first, it will not give off its flavor and color as well.
Start off by making a simple, classic sofritto of celery, onion and carrot and sautéeing it for a minute or two, until it becomes translucent. Once the sofritto is translucent, add some finely chopped garlic and the risoni, along with salt, pepper, nutmeg, lemon zest, lemon juice and the saffron/asparagus broth. Add as much boiling water as you need to cover the risoni and reduce to a simmer. In the meantime you can prepare the asparagus.
Cut the tips off the asparagus to use as a garnish later and sautée them with a little shredded, thinly sliced ham, until the asparagus becomes lightly golden and the ham becomes crispy and dry. I did this in a dry non-stick frying pan.
Slice the remaining asparagus stalks on the diagonal in bite-sized pieces and add to the risoni with a little more water- enough to loosen up the mixture a little. Feel free to add a little white wine or Sambuca would also be lovely with this... unless of course you are cooking for children!
After 15 minutes or so of total cooking time, the risoni should be silky smooth and ready to be served! They do take a little longer than regular pasta strangely enough- but that is fine- in those extra few minutes you can finely chop a little parsley and prepare a basil leaf or two for your garnish! Serve with a sprinkle of coarsely ground black pepper and enjoy with a fruity, chilled chardonnay- delicious!