High school is over in our neck of the woods and last week we went to a graduation party of the son of one of our neighbors.
High school graduation ceremonies, proms and parties are totally new to us. In Italy, we do not have a graduation ceremony after our high school finals and, usually, there is no prom or party afterwards.
Young Italian girls and boys abruptly transition from being high school teenagers to wannabe adults ;-) at university (in the sense of postgraduate school, like Law School, Med School, etc.) without any particular celebration or event to be remembered by. We think it is kind of sad and we are starting to enjoy this American tradition thinking that, one day (far, far away in time! :-) ), Stefano and I will proudly be going to Her Majesty’s graduation ceremony. :-)
Anyway, my neighbors really like this asparagus and pancetta baked pasta. So I decided to bring it to the party to put an Italian touch on their buffet. ;-)
This dish was my first pasta post on this blog. Looking back at the photo of the dish that I asked Stefano to take almost two years ago, I have to admit I wasn’t very pleased with my presentation. This pasta deserves so much better! :-)
I have been wanting to retake the picture with a different setting for more than a year but I’m a very lazy person, some may go as far as to call me the queen of postponement! ;-)
This graduation party was the perfect occasion to shake my royal status away, make this pasta again and work on a different presentation. I like this presentation much better than the old one and I hope you will agree with me.
To make your life easier in case you decide to give this dish a try, I decided to republish the recipe, so you won’t be driven crazy by links going back and forth!
2 lb asparagus
¼ cup extravirgin olive oil
¼ cup beef stock
1 lb of ¼ inch thick pancetta
7 cups of Bechamel sauce
2 cups each of two shredded cheeses of your choice (4 cups total)
1.6 lb dried ziti pasta (1 ½ packs)
1 cup grated Parmigiano cheese
Ground black pepper
Wash the asparagus spears and cut off the woody ends. In a large pot, heat some water until it boils, add the asparagus and keep boiling for 3-4 minutes. Strain the asparagus, rinse with cold water and cut into ¾ inch pieces. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat, add the asparagus, season with salt and pepper (to taste) and toss to coat. Add the beef stock and stir occasionally until the stock evaporates. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta and cook until al dente, stirring occasionally.
While the pasta is cooking, put the shredded cheeses into the pot with the hot Béchamel Sauce and, over very low heat, stir until the cheeses are completely melted.
Drain the pasta and put it again into the pot.
In a 9×13 inch casserole, spread some of the sauce to keep the pasta from sticking. Save 2 cups of the sauce for later and add the rest along with the asparagus and the pancetta to the pasta and toss to coat. Put the pasta in the casserole, ladle the rest of the sauce that you had previously set aside over the pasta, spreading it evenly, and scatter the grated Parmigiano over it. Bake for about 20 minutes covering the pasta with aluminum foil for the first 10 minutes.
Let me know what you think!