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Big Flavors from your Small Appliances

Asparagus and Pasta in Creamy Sauce
Appliance: Rice Cooker - 8 cup capacity and larger.
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This recipe is part of the Spring Green Collection
For the Pasta/Asparagus:
   Water (for cooking)
   1 teaspoon salt
   6-8 asparagus spears
   1 teaspoon oil
   4 ounces (about 2 2/3 cups) penne pasta

For the Sauce:    3/4 cup milk
   2 teaspoons flour
   1/8 teaspoon pepper
   1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
   1 tablespoon butter
   2 cloves garlic, minced
   1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided

For the Pasta/Asparagus:
Fill your rice cooker's inner bowl 3/4 of the way full with water and add 1 teaspoon of the salt. Cover and push cook button to bring to a boil. Use steam cooking setting, if available.

While the water is heating, snap woody ends from the asparagus spears and cut them into 1 inch pieces. Cut them on an angle, so the asparagus pieces and the pasta pieces look similar.

When the water is boiling, add 1 teaspoon of oil (to prevent boil overs) and the pasta. Begin timing the pasta as soon as you add it to the water and stir frequently during the first three minutes of cooking to prevent sticking, then occasionally after that.

Cook pasta for 4 minutes less than the recommended cooking time on the box. With the pasta and water still boiling, carefully add the asparagus to cook with the penne. Use a ladle to remove a little of the cooking water if it looks as though your rice cooker's bowl is too full. Cook, stirring asparagus and pasta occasionally for 3 minutes, then drain.

For the Sauce:
While pasta and asparagus are boiling, whisk together milk, flour, pepper and nutmeg in a small bowl until very smooth, then set aside.

After cooking and draining pasta and asparagus, return the inner cooking bowl to your rice cooker and add the butter. When it has melted, add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Using a non-metal whisk, stir in milk mixture and cook, whisking constantly, until bubbly and slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.

Add the pasta and asparagus to the sauce along with half the Parmesan cheese and continue cooking until pasta is tender and sauce is thickened enough to cling to the penne and asparagus.

Serve immediately with the additional Parmesan cheese.

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