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Recipe Blog Post: Aglio e Olio with Asparagus


One of my all-time comfort activities is taking an afternoon in the kitchen with all the windows open, chopping and stirring and breathing deeply, throwing together a new dish. Today’s midday feast was inspired by chef Carla Lalli Music, whose pantry pasta dish on a recent episode of Bon Appétit’s Test Kitchen Talks (at 2:42) involved cooking down greens, sautéing lots of smashed garlic cloves, and assembling rotini in a quick olive oil pan sauce in under 10 minutes. Of course for my leisure purposes, I extended the preparation into an exploration of my fridge and found a few more ingredients to include. I had fusilli at home, which is a smaller twisted pasta than rotini, but anything with large grooves will do great at scooping up the chunky sauce. Honestly, use any pasta you’ve got and it’ll be delicious. 

Pasta jokes aren’t refined, they’re just fusilli.

I’m on a grainy mustard kick right now and had to include a big spoonful of dijon with the crunchy asparagus in the pan, and with the most minimal effort the aglio e olio grew into a zippy spring pasta that I will dream about until I can make it again. Maybe this weekend.

There are absolutely no rules with this recipe. Swap in ingredients you have at home and adjust the seasoning to taste. Thinly sliced cooking onions or leeks will do great in place of shallots, and if the mustard in your house is jarred and spicy or yellow and in a squeeze bottle, full steam ahead. It’s so easy to make the pan sauce vegan as well, just swap out the parm for nutritional yeast and the butter for a vegan alternative to get that silky texture. And remember, pasta water is salty! You might not need as much salt as you think, so taste as you go.

For 2-3 servings of fusilli aglio e olio with asparagus, you will need:

  • Fusilli or any other pasta, 350g
  • Garlic, 4 cloves smashed, peeled, roughly chopped
  • Shallots, 2 medium bulbs thinly sliced
  • Asparagus, 200g stalks chopped into quarters
  • Parmigiano reggiano, 50g or more, finely grated
  • Grainy dijon mustard, 1 1/2 tablespoons
  • Olive oil, 3 tablespoons
  • Butter, nub (1-2 tablespoons)
  • Crushed red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon or to taste
  • Pepper, 2 teaspoons
  • Garlic powder, 1 teaspoon
  • Sage, a few fresh leaves or 1 ground teaspoon
  • Salt, to taste

Time needed: 40 minutes.

  1. Slice shallots, smash garlic, chop asparagus
    Set aside
  2. Heat high-sided frying pan or medium dutch oven over medium-low heat
    Add half the olive oil
  3. While the oil is warming, put a large pasta pot on high heat
    Salt the water like the ocean and let it come to a boil
  4. When the oil starts to shimmer, add the shallots and red pepper flakes
    Sauté for 2-3 minutes until shallots soften and become translucent
    Salt and pepper generously, about half the set amounts
  5. Add the pasta to the boiling water while the shallots cook down
    Check pasta periodically and cook until al dente, just before it’s fully soft
  6. Add garlic, stirring and crushing larger bits with a wooden spoon, then stir in the mustard
    Let the garlic warm first , just a minute or so
    If the mixture appears dry, add a splash more olive oil
  7. Add asparagus, butter, sage, garlic powder, and a big splash of pasta water
    Stir well until the sauce tightens up, a minute or two
  8. When the pasta is al dente, scoop it into the vegetable mixture
    This is a great time to make sure a little extra pasta water gets in there
    Stir in the parmigiano, taste, and adjust seasoning as needed
  9. Serve immediately
    Would be delicious with a medium dry white wine or carbonated water with a squeeze of lemon

Stays good in the fridge for two or three days. Enjoy!