I was noodling vegetables using a knife and a peeler long before spiralizers came on the scene or pre-cut zoodles could be found in the grocery store, and I am thrilled that they are so popular now.
But while vegetable noodles can give you a pasta-like effect in many dishes, for me they will never take the place of actual pasta with its comforting al dente heartiness. Luckily, they don’t need to, because pasta and vegetable noodles are not the either-or proposition some would lead you to believe they are. They happen to work wonders together, as this sumptuous spring pasta dish so elegantly proves.
In it, asparagus stalks are shaved with a vegetable peeler into thin strips. The asparagus “noodles” and the trimmed spears are cooked until firm-tender in a lemon, garlic and white wine reduction. The saucy mixture is then tossed with crabmeat, tarragon, parsley and just-cooked whole-grain fettuccine or spaghetti. The final dish is fragrant with fresh herbs, has a light brightness from the citrus, is generously heaped with crab and studded with the green asparagus tips.
The asparagus noodles mingle seamlessly with the ribbons of pasta, amplifying the overall portion and filling your bowl while a relatively modest amount of pasta is used. Together, they make for a tremendously satisfying and healthfully balanced spring meal.
Fettuccine with crab and asparagus
1 bunch (about 12 ounces) thick asparagus
12 ounces dried whole-wheat fettuccine (may substitute dried whole-grain spaghetti)
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup seafood stock
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest and 3 tablespoons lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
½ teaspoon salt, or more as needed
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound lump crabmeat, drained and picked over to remove any bits of cartilage
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish
Cut off the asparagus tips (reserving them); then, using a sharp vegetable peeler, and holding each spear by its woody ends against a cutting board, peel the stalks into long, thin strips. Discard the woody ends.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions, until al dente. Drain and return the pasta to the pot.
Meanwhile, add 2 tablespoons of the oil and the garlic to a large, deep skillet over medium heat; cook for about 5 minutes, stirring, until the garlic is lightly golden, being careful not to let it burn.
Add the wine (be careful, it will sputter at first) and the stock; bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook for about 5 minutes, until the liquid has reduced by about half.
Add the asparagus tips and strips, the lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Let the mixture start to bubble again, then cook for about 2 minutes, just until the asparagus is crisp-tender. Stir in the crabmeat and cook for about 1 minute, just long enough for it to warm through.
Add the asparagus-crab mixture to the cooked pasta in the pot, along with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, the tarragon and parsley. Toss gently to incorporate. Taste and season lightly with more salt, if needed.
Garnish with more parsley and serve warm.
Makes 4 to 6 servings. Nutrition per serving: 470 calories, 21 grams protein, 45 grams carbohydrates, 22 grams fat, 3 gra,s saturated fat, 70 milligrams cholesterol, 590 milligrams sodium, 7 grams dietary fiber, 2 grams sugar.