Ziti Rigati with Asparagus and Cannellini beans

This is the time of year for deeply comforting and hearty food. Beans and pasta make a perfect combination and a base for just about any flavor combination you want. This version is simple and light but packed with flavor.

Ingredients
1 pound ziti rigati (substitute with any ridged pasta – the ridges help hold the sauce better)
15-20 baby carrots (substitute 3 regular carrots)
4 cloves of garlic
1 tsp dried basil
2 serrano chillies
3/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (use a pinch to – 1 tsp based on your preferred spice level)
1 tsp kosher coarse salt
3 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 bunch asparagus, washed
1 can cannellini beans, drained and washed
1 cup cubed fresh mozzarella cheese

Method
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a generous sprinkle of salt and a few drizzles of olive oil. Drop the pasta in and cook 7-8 minutes until al-dente. Make sure you save a cup of the pasta water. Drain the pasta and set aside.

Using a food processor pulse chop together the garlic, basil, red pepper flakes, serrano chillies and carrots with 1/2 tsp salt.

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Melt butter over medium heat in a large sauté pan. Add the chopped onions and turn the heat to high. Cook for 5 minutes until the onions shrink a little and start turning golden brown.

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Add the chopped carrot mixture to this with a tsp of salt. Add the oregano and continue cooking on high for another 5 minutes.

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In the meanwhile, prepare the asparagus. Snap one asparagus and wherever it naturally breaks is the length you can cut the rest of the whole bunch. Chop the asparagus into 1″ pieces.

Add the tomato paste and asparagus to the carrot/onion mixture and pour in half of the reserved pasta water. Drop the heat to medium and let this cook for another 5 minutes.

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Add the mozzarella and beans to the sauce and mix well together. Taste for seasoning and adjust for salt if needed. I needed to add a 1/2 tsp more salt at this stage.

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Let the mixture simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes. Stir in the drained pasta and toss together. Add the remaining 1/2 cup reserved pasta water and cook for 5 minutes.

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Remove from heat and serve hot.

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