bunches small or medium asparagus or 8 ounces broccoli florets
pound gemelli or fusilli
cup pine nuts (optional)
pound bulk Italian sausage
medium onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
cup whipping cream
teaspoon kosher salt
cup sheep's milk or whole-milk ricotta
Freshly ground black pepper
cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
fresh basil leaves
Ricotta cheese (optional)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Bring a large pot of water, with 1 tablespoon salt added, to boiling. Cut top 2 inches from asparagus stalks (reserve asparagus stalks for another use; see "What About the Stalks?") Cook asparagus tips or broccoli in the boiling water for 3 to 4 minutes, just until tender. Using a large skimmer or long-handled strainer, transfer asparagus or broccoli to a colander. Rinse under cold running water to stop the cooking.
Return asparagus cooking water to boiling. Add the pasta; cook according to package directions, about 10 minutes, just until tender to the bite (al dente). While pasta is cooking, spread the pine nuts on a baking sheet and bake about 10 minutes, just until golden.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook sausage and onion until meat is browned and onion is tender; drain off fat. Add asparagus tips or broccoli, all except 1 tablespoon of the pine nuts, the cream, and salt. Simmer about 2 minutes. When pasta is almost done cooking, use a skimmer or long-handled strainer to transfer it to the skillet, reserving cooking water. Add ricotta, plenty of freshly ground black pepper, and about 1 cup of the pasta cooking water. Increase heat to high; toss until pasta is well coated, about 30 seconds. Add Parmigiano then toss again. Transfer to a large platter, top with reserved pine nuts and basil. Serve with additional ricotta.
From the Test Kitchen
If pasta is too dry, add additional pasta water until desired consistency is reached
WHAT ABOUT THE STALKS?
Donatella's recipe calls for the tips only of the asparagus, so she uses the remaining stalks for a side dish. Cut stalks in 2-inch pieces, cook in lightly salted water just until they turn bright green, drain, then transfer to a baking dish. Drizzle with a little melted butter, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, and bake at 450 degrees F for 6 to 8 minutes until the cheese is crusty and browned.
Nutrition Facts (Gemelli with Asparagus and Sausage)
Per serving: 701 kcal cal., 36 g fat (16 g sat. fat, 4 g polyunsaturated fat, 14 g monounsatured fat), 101 mg chol., 1149 mg sodium, 63 g carb., 4 g fiber, 4 g sugar, 29 g pro. Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet