Hunting for wild asparagus is almost a national sport in Umbria - well more or less all over bella Italia - young and old - everybody goes in search of the delicacy on weekends or in the early mornings before anyone else have found just that perfect spot.
One thing we have learned though is to focus on the dead weeds nearby and to learn to recognize last years dead asparagus brush - when you master this - you are a very big step closer to bring home a big bagful of goodies to cook.
Another great trick we recently learned - is to place your freshly picked asparagus in jug of cold water for several hours or even overnight, they will plump up and become more tender.
The taste of wild asparagus is of course similar to the cultivated one - just so much more intense in the flavour and therefore perfect to cook in dishes like; risotto, frittata or in pasta.
The way we serve them here in Todi, is a true classical "tuderte" dish - Spaghetti alla Boscaiola. A spin on Carbonara - with the added benefit of wild asparagus - a dish you will find on the menu in all the small trattorias and enotecas of town - and well also in our little Guest House.
If you are not able to locate wild asparagus, then you easily use cultivated asparagus. In our recipe we use guanciale - which is the salted and air cured cheek of the pork - and the proper thing to use in any carbonara - and worth looking for - but you can also easily use unsmoked pancetta as well.
a good handful of wild asparagus, trimmed, woody parts removed.
2-3 thick slices of guanciale, cut into smaller strips
1 egg yolk
25 g parmesan, gated
sea salt and black pepper
200 g spaghetti
Bring a small saucepan of salted water to the boil. Cut your trimmed asparagus into smaller pieces - but not too small. Cook these until tender. Drain and set a side.
Bring another saucepan of salted water to the boil for your pasta.
In a frying pan - perfect if you have one of these with rounded sides - great for "swinging a tasty plate of pasta in", cook your guanciale until most fat has rendered and slightly crispy. Pour out some of the fat, if you think it is too much but leave some in. Add asparagus to guanciale.
Cook pasta according to instructions on the package.
Meanwhile whisk together egg, egg yolk and parmesan. Season with salt and pepper. Loosen with a bit of the cooking water and mix.
Once your pasta is cooked al dente, drain - reserving some of the cooking water. Add pasta to the pan with guanciale and asparagus and toss. Pour in very little of the cooking water and place on the heat again and heat through.
Once really warm and bubbly, remove from the heat and pour in the egg - now it is time to shake and stir the pan - so the egg coats the pasta as well as cooking a little from the heat of the pasta making a creamy sauce - shake it a few times and serve right away.......this is not a pasta dish that waits for the the guests....