An exquisite prawn pasta dish to make the most of the new season’s asparagus

Our kitchen garden cook Melanie Johnson is as excited as the rest of us by the first asparagus of the season.

‘Asparagus means we are fully on our way with spring,’ says Melanie Johnson, as she shares her favourite ways with this delicate and delicious seasonal vegetable.

It’s enough of a delight that even the simplest treatment can be nigh-on perfect. Melanie suggests that you can steam your asparagus and gently toss with olive oil, seasoning and lemon juice, then finish with grated Parmesan, making it an ideal accompaniment to salmon or chicken.

For something a little grander, though, the recipe below is simple enough to be a weekday dinner, yet powerful enough to serve as a real showstopper.

Recipe: Asparagus and prawn pasta with saffron cream and pistachio pangrattato

Serves 4


  • 16 asparagus spears
  • 200g cooked tiger prawns
  • A pinch of saffron
  • 400g penne pasta
  • 200ml dry white wine
  • 100g butter
  • 100ml double cream
  • ½ tspn chilli flakes
  • 50g dried breadcrumbs
  • Olive oil
  • 30g pistachios
  • 1 tbspn chopped parsley or basil
  • Micro herbs and edible flowers to serve (optional)

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Pour a few tablespoons of boiled water over the saffron and leave to infuse in a small bowl.

Cook the pasta in a large pan of boiling water until al dente, then drain and set aside. Pour the white wine into the same pan and heat until reduced by two-thirds. Once reduced, add the butter a tablespoon at a time, whisking continuously, until it’s all melted and the sauce is smooth. Pour in the saffron water, mix again, then pour in the cream and whisk together. Return the pasta to the pan and place a lid on it to keep it warm.

Cut the asparagus into bite-size pieces and toss with olive oil. Heat for a few minutes in a frying pan to lightly char and partially soften. Toss the prawns with the chilli flakes, then add them to the asparagus and heat through. Season everything in the pan before adding the asparagus and prawns to the pasta.

Make pangrattato by frying the breadcrumbs in olive oil until golden. Add the pistachios and the herbs and continue cooking until they are all browned.

Divide the pasta between plates and sprinkle over the pangrattato. Scatter with a few micro herbs and edible flowers — if using — and serve.