Pasta with asparagus and a fried egg. Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman.

Pasta with asparagus and a fried egg. Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman.

I was about 24 hours into my vegan experiment, planning to prepare pasta with asparagus and olive oil. In Ruhlman’s Twenty, I write about what a felicitous pairing scallops and asparagus are and make a sauce by pureeing the stems and mounting the puree with butter, serving the reheated tips as garnish. Finding myself with a good bunch of asparagus, I thought, “I’ll bet pureed asparagus makes an excellent sauce for pasta. But still it’s going to need a little oomph. Hmmm. Perhaps some freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Oops, not strictly vegan. But maybe just a few shaving, it’ll taste sooo much better.” I was hungry, and the dish needed a little extra something, which in so many instances is solved simply by adding an egg. Oh hell, why not mount a good deal of butter into that beautiful pureed asparagus and top the plate with a chicken’s egg.

Thus, my experiment in veganism came to a close with an absolutely fabulous, intensely asparagus-y pasta topped with more asparagus, cheese, and a fried egg. Worth every compromise. Looks like my own Ruhlman’s “twenty” will be sticking around for a while longer.

The following recipe will serve two full portions or four starter courses. The eggs can be poached rather than fried if you wish.

Pasta with Asparagus and an Egg

  • 1.5 pounds asparagus, boiled till tender and shocked in ice water (save some of the cooking water)
  • 2 ounces butter
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 to 4 eggs
  • Vegetable oil for frying egg
  • Pasta as needed, 4 ounces dried per serving, cooked, oiled, kept warm
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  1. Cut off the asparagus tips, put them in a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap.
  2. Cut the stems into 1-inch pieces and puree them in a blender, adding just enough of the reserved cooking water to get the puree going. Transfer the puree to a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer, then swirl in the butter, keeping it moving till the butter is completely incorporated. Add a four-finger pinch of salt. Keep warm.
  3. Fry the eggs over high heat till the white is set, or cook as you wish.
  4. While the eggs are cooking, reheat the asparagus tips in a microwave (you might want to toss with a little olive oil or butter first).
  5. Toss however much pasta you feel like serving with the sauce till it’s evenly coated. Divide among plates. Grate cheese over each and top with the asparagus tips, followed by the egg.
  6. Crack pepper over the eggs and serve.

Yield: 2 full portions or 4 starter courses

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© 2013 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2013 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.