The past few days have seen some glorious weather here on the farm.
My favourite time of year is when the leaves start to bud and things starting growing again.
I sit outside for my morning coffee and watch the birds at the feeder. My kids start dragging their toys downstairs so they can play with them in the sunshine.
It's almost like I don't realise how little we go outside in the winter until the weather warms up again.
This is the time of year where I always start craving fresh green vegetables, too. Barely cooked, still crisp and crunchy and seasoned with just a little bit of butter or salt - is there anything nicer than fresh asparagus, peas, spinach and kale?
Taking my garden seriously
I am taking my garden very seriously this year, so I hope that by next spring I will be able to use a lot of my own vegetables in dishes like the one I'm sharing today.
The only problem is my track record, which, when it comes to growing vegetables, is terrible. So we'll have to wait and see if there will be any fruits to my labours this year.
This pasta is a go-to recipe for me and my family during the school week. Sure, my kids are extremely picky and won't eat any green things, but it's easy to separate the veggies from the pasta - I just set some aside for the girls and mix it with butter and cheese (and make sure there are some veggies to try on the side of their plate! I don't force them to eat things they hate, but I do have a one-bite rule).
My husband and I (and anyone else hanging around the farm) then enjoy our own pasta.
The key to making a great pasta sauce is always time - the longer you have to cook, the better it will taste. However, this is not true for this recipe.
You do not want to overcook these delicious green vegetables. I tend to let the onions and garlic cook gently for at least 10 minutes on medium-low, then add chicken stock, lemon juice and rind and a splash of starchy pasta water.
I add the greens at the very last minute to ensure they keep their fresh colour and flavours.
500g pasta (any kind, but I particularly like linguine, spaghetti or bucatini)
150g mature cheese, like Parmesan (I used Killeen Goat Cheese from Co Galway), finely grated
1 bunch asparagus, washed and diced into small pieces
1 large onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, sliced or finely minced
100g baby spinach, washed
200g Tuscan (or black) kale, washed and roughly chopped
A handful of kalamata olives (optional)
Juice and rind of one lemon
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
100ml hot chicken stock
50ml reserved pasta water
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Bring a large pot of well-seasoned water to a rapid boil. Add the pasta and cook as per instructions; to al dente.
2 Reserve 50ml pasta water and strain the rest. Drizzle with some olive oil and set aside.
3 In a large saucepan, melt the butter and gently cook the onion for eight to 10 minutes, until completely cooked through and lightly golden in colour. Add the garlic and continue to cook for an additional one or two minutes.
4 Add the lemon rind and juice, then add the chicken stock, chilli flakes, oregano, basil and kalamata olives (if using). Simmer and reduce slightly, then add the reserved pasta water and the fresh green vegetables.
5 Simmer for one or two minutes, then add the pasta and toss to coat the pasta with the sauce (if the sauce seems thin or watery, just keep mixing the pasta - the starch will thicken it).
6 Add the grated cheese, reserving some for garnish, and season to taste with salt and fresh cracked black pepper.
7 Serve hot and enjoy! If you need some added protein, this pasta pairs really well with chicken or grilled Italian sausage.