Fettuccine with Sweet Tomato Sauce and Asparagus

I have a weird thing for Prego. I think it’s because my mom used to use it as a base for our pasta dinners when we were growing up (just adding things like mushrooms, onions and meat to jazz it up). I mean, I totally get it: you’re supposed to like 100% fresh sauce best, and yes, it’s wonderful…but…

I also like Prego. I can’t help it. It’s sort of like McDonald’s hamburgers versus the Black Label burger at Minetta Tavern: they’re just totally different categories of food, and equally delicious in their own ways. I think, however, that what makes me like Prego is – rather unfortunately – the same thing that makes it a less-great option than homemade sauce: all that added sugar that’s present in pretty much anything that you buy pre-made.

This pasta dish is fresh and light, and has that touch of sweetness that I’m looking for without actually being loaded up with sugar. I’ve been making this recipe (one of the first I ever wrote about, actually) for years, and have tweaked it to make it as straightforward and simple as possible – it takes about fifteen minutes start to finish, and is a major crowd-pleaser.

What You Need:

1 package fresh pasta of your choice

1 bunch asparagus

1 medium yellow onion, diced

2 tsp minced fresh garlic

1 24-oz can diced tomatoes

1 tsp balsamic vinegar

3/4 cup fresh whole-milk ricotta

What You Do:

1. Heat the oven to 400F. Trim the tough ends (the lower 1/3) from the asparagus and lightly drizzle with olive oil and salt, then roast about 8 minutes (or until fork-tender).

2. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat a little olive oil and cook the onion until just translucent, adding the garlic for the last minute or two of cooking and stirring constantly to prevent burning.

3. Add the tomatoes and turn down the heat. Let the sauce simmer 10-20 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions (fresh pasta should only take a couple of minutes).

5. Stir the balsamic vinegar and ricotta into the sauce, and season to taste.

6. Just before serving, cut the roasted asparagus into 1″ pieces and toss it with the pasta and tomato sauce.

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