"The dish's quick-and-easy nature fits with the Romans' attitude toward asparagus. 'Let it be done in less time than it takes to cook an asparagus!' was a common expression during Emperor Augustus Caesar's reign," writes David Downie.
Rigatoni with Asparagus and Ricotta
From David Downie's Cooking the Roman Way: Authentic Recipes from the Home Cooks and Trattorias of Rome, published by HarperCollins.
1-1/2 pounds tender young asparagus
kosher salt or coarse sea salt
1 pound rigatoni
1-1/2 cups ricotta
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 heaping tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino Romano
freshly ground black pepper
about 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino Romano, combined
Bring at least 5 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot.
With a vegetable peeler or paring knife, scrape the asparagus stems and snap off the woody ends. Cut the tips to about 1-1/2" in length. Chop the stems into roughly 1" lengths.
Add a generous pinch of salt to the boiling water, drop in the pasta and stir. Wait 1 minute and add the chopped asparagus stems. Cover the pot. When the water returns to a boil, cook the pasta and stems, uncovered, for 3 minutes. Add the asparagus tips, stir and cook until the pasta is al dente, 5-8 minutes.
While the pasta cooks, scoop the ricotta into a large serving bowl. Ladle in about 2 tablespoons of the pasta water and stir with a wooden spoon. Add the oil, the 3 heaping tablespoons of Pecorino Romano and a generous pinch of pepper. Stir until smooth and dense.
When the pasta and asparagus are al dente, drain and toss them into the serving bowl with the ricotta, stirring and flipping. Serve hot with a bowl of the cheeses on the side.