Pasta With Feta Cheese And Asparagus

By 8 m read

Pasta With Feta Cheese And Asparagus (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
(Photo by Viana Boenzli)

Pasta with feta cheese and asparagus is a deceptively easy dish that has an incredible depth of flavors. 

 

Let’s first dissect the individual tastes and flavors of the ingredients:

 

Feta Cheese – tangy, rich, slightly salty

Asparagus – nutty, grassy, slightly sweet

Olive Oil – certainly depends on the olive, I like mine grassy and peppery

Garlic – warm and spicy, hard to describe, garlicky 🙂

Lemon – acidic, sharp, sour 

Thyme – grassy, woodsy, and floral 

Oregano – pungent and slightly bitter

Parsley – clean, earthy (optional)

 

Just think about this for a moment. With a few ingredients and a simple recipe, we can take our taste buds on a dizzying flavor ride in less than 30 minutes. 

Pasta With Feta Cheese And Asparagus (Photo by Erich Boenzli)
(Photo by Erich Boenzli)

Flavors are one of the many joys of cooking. Textures, different cuts, new ingredients, methods, etc, are other examples that keep it exciting and fresh. I’m always blown away by how flavors of different ingredients interact with each other when brought together. That’s why if there’s one mantra to follow in cooking, it’s: taste, taste, taste. 

 

Is it feta cheese on pasta, or feta cheese with pasta, or feta cheese in pasta? I call it pasta with feta cheese and asparagus, herbs, and a hint of lemon.

Pasta With Feta Cheese And Asparagus (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
(Photo by Viana Boenzli)

How And Where To Buy Authentic Greek Feta Cheese

Buying Feta Cheese: It can get a little overwhelming when it comes to buying feta cheese. There may be many different options available at your local grocery store. From Greek style to authentic Greek, from crumbled to blocks, made with cow’s milk, sheep’s milk, or even mixed with goat’s milk. 

 

Greek-style feta cheese primarily uses cow’s milk. It’s undoubtedly a great cheese to have on your cheeseboard, but if you want to achieve that tangy flavor in the sauce, authentic Greek feta cheese is the way to go.

 

Crumbled feta cheese might be a choice of convenience, but you also might end up with a drier experience.

 

So what’s the best choice? Get a block of Greek feta cheese in brine. This cheese has the desired tanginess, is made from (mostly) sheep’s milk, and lasts for a couple months without drying out. 

 

Ideally, the feta cheese you buy should be from Greece, made from at least 70% sheep’s milk (plus goat milk), and have a yellow/red PDO logo on the package. PDO stands for “protected designation of origin,” a European government designation that guarantees you’re buying the real deal. 

Pasta With Feta Cheese And Asparagus (Photo by Erich Boenzli)
(Photo by Erich Boenzli)

How To Buy, Store, And Prepare Asparagus

By the way, what’s the plural of asparagus? A bunch of asparagus? Asparagi?

 

Buying Asparagus: Buy asparagus fresh. Stores mainly sell the green and violet-green variety. Look for bright colors and make sure the stems are firm. While thickness does not affect the taste of asparagus, they should all be roughly uniform in size so that they cook evenly.

 

Storing Asparagus: Ideally, use asparagus on the day you bought it. Sometimes they’re on sale, look great, and you can’t help yourself and buy too many bunches. Asparagus were once classified in the lily family of plants, but currently they are a family of their own. But you can still treat them like you would cut flowers to keep them fresh: trim the bottoms, place in a jar, in a little bit of water, lightly tent with a small plastic bag, and store in the refrigerator for up to 6 days.

 

Preparing Asparagus: Rinse under cold water and let dry on a clean towel. Trim the woody ends. If the asparagus you bought are more than a 1/4” thick, I recommend using a vegetable peeler and peeling off the bottom third. Thick asparagus tend to become woody on the outside. This fibrous layer will affect the outcome of your dish. For most recipes, cut them diagonally into about 2” (fork-friendly) pieces. Put aside a couple of heads to use as a garnish when serving. They also taste delicious raw.  

Pasta With Feta Cheese And Asparagus (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
(Photo by Viana Boenzli)

Should I Use Fresh Or Dried Herbs?

I always believe that fresh herbs are more desirable, but sometimes you use what you have. Herbs like oregano, thyme, rosemary, lavender are perfect in dried form. Parsely, cilantro, and chives, on the other hand, I would recommend using them fresh. 

 

So what if a recipe lists fresh herbs and all you have are dried herbs or vice versa? Easy, the ratio from fresh to dry herbs is 3:1. Dried herbs are often more potent than fresh herbs. Since there are three teaspoons in one tablespoon, this means the correct ratio is one tablespoon of fresh herbs to one teaspoon of dried herbs. If the recipe lists 1 Tbsp of fresh oregano, use 1 tsp of dried oregano. If you’re feeling more confused than ever, send us an email! 🤣 

 

How To Make Pasta With Feta Cheese And Asparagus

Things happen quickly in this feta pasta recipe. I recommend having all the ingredients out, measured, and ready to go.

 

Start with bringing a pot of water to a boil. Add enough salt to make it taste like the sea. Add the pasta, adjust the heat, and keep it at a rolling boil. Stir a couple of times after a few minutes. This will prevent the pasta from sticking together. 

 

While your pasta is cooking, heat 2 Tbsp of your favorite extra-virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add the asparagus, 1/4 tsp kosher salt, and 1/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper. Stir occasionally. 

 

Depending on the thickness of the asparagus spears, the amount of heat you’re using, and how soft you prefer your asparagus, this step takes between 5 to 10 minutes. My asparagus spears were on the thinner side and I like them “al dente,” so they were finished after just 5 minutes. Start tasting after about 5 minutes and you’ll be able to tell when they’re done to your liking.

Pasta With Feta Cheese And Asparagus (Photo by Erich Boenzli)
(Photo by Erich Boenzli)

A minute before the asparagus are done, add 1 Tbsp of chopped garlic, 1 tsp dried thyme, 1 tsp dried oregano, 1/2 tsp lemon zest, and 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes. Reduce the heat and give it a good stir before adding the feta cheese and the cooked pasta. 

Pasta With Feta Cheese And Asparagus (Photo by Erich Boenzli)
(Photo by Erich Boenzli)

In the meantime, the pasta should be ready. Before draining the pasta, save about 1/4 cup of pasta water. This liquid gold will be part of the sauce (together with the melted feta cheese).

 

Tip: It happens to all of us. We’re planning to use pasta water as part of the sauce, only to rush to drain the pasta and suddenly…. Yup, there goes the pasta water down the drain. Here’s a neat trick for all of us not-so-perfect cooks: before you start cooking, place the pasta strainer or colander on top of a bowl in the sink. That way, when you’re ready to drain the pasta (and forgot to save the pasta water), the bowl will catch it for you. Done. 

Pasta With Feta Cheese And Asparagus (Photo by Erich Boenzli)
(Photo by Erich Boenzli)

Add crumbled/chopped feta cheese into the pan, reduce heat to just warm enough to melt the cheese, and give it a couple of minutes. Then, add the drained pasta and reserved pasta water. The melted cheese and pasta water will emulsify and – while occasionally gently stirring – coat the linguine in the goodness that your taste buds and dinner buddies will remember for a long time to come. Seriously, it’s that good. Serve with a sprinkle of chopped parsley on top and enjoy!

Pasta With Feta Cheese And Asparagus (Photo by Erich Boenzli)
(Photo by Erich Boenzli)

Want to add another flavor? Open a bottle of Greek white wine. But that’s easier said than done unless you live in Greece. Otherwise, a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand (Marlborough region) goes fantastic with this dish. 

Pasta With Feta Cheese And Asparagus (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
(Photo by Viana Boenzli)

Looking for more delicious pasta dinners? Check out a few more of our recipes now:

 

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Pasta With Feta Cheese And Asparagus (Photo by Viana Boenzli)

Pasta With Feta Cheese And Asparagus

Pasta with feta cheese and asparagus is a deceptively easy dish that has an incredible depth of flavors. With a few ingredients and a simple recipe, we can take our taste buds on a dizzying flavor ride in less than 30 minutes. 
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 20 mins
Servings 2

Ingredients
  

  • 8 oz linguine (or spaghetti)
  • 1/2 lb asparagus, cleaned, trimmed, and cut into 2” pieces
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp chopped garlic
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 6 oz feta cheese, crumbled or chopped
  • 1/4 c reserved pasta water
  • 2 Tbsp chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley (optional)

Instructions
 

  • Start with bringing a pot of water to a boil. Add enough salt to make it taste like the sea. 
  • Add the pasta, adjust the heat, and keep it at a rolling boil. Stir a couple of times after a few minutes. This will prevent the pasta from sticking together. 
  • While your pasta is cooking, heat 2 Tbsp of your favorite extra-virgin olive oil over medium heat.
  • Add the asparagus, 1/4 tsp kosher salt, and 1/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper. Stir occasionally. 
  • Depending on the thickness of the asparagus spears, the amount of heat you’re using, and how soft you prefer your asparagus, this step takes between 5 to 10 minutes. My asparagus spears were on the thinner side and I like them “al dente,” so they were finished after just 5 minutes. Start tasting after about 5 minutes and you’ll be able to tell when they’re done to your liking.
  • A minute before the asparagus are done, add 1 Tbsp of chopped garlic, 1 tsp dried thyme, 1 tsp dried oregano, 1/2 tsp lemon zest, and 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes. Reduce the heat and give it a good stir before adding the feta cheese and the cooked pasta. 
  • In the meantime, the pasta should be ready. Before draining the pasta, save about 1/4 cup of pasta water. This will be part of the sauce (together with the melted feta cheese).
  • Add crumbled/chopped feta cheese into the pan, reduce heat to just warm enough to melt the cheese, and give it a couple of minutes.
  • Then, add the drained pasta and reserved pasta water.
  • The melted cheese and pasta water will emulsify and – while occasionally gently stirring – coat the linguine.
  • Serve with a sprinkle of chopped parsley on top and enjoy!

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