A Smooth Sauce from a Couple of Tough Veggies



  1. 1 cup asparagus stubs
  2. Four 5-inch-long pieces of leek green, top and outer layers
  3. 4 or 5 scallion greens, top and outer leaves (fresh trimmings only)
  4. 4 large garlic cloves, peeled
  5. 1 large onion, cut into large chunks
  6. 2 to 3 cups water
  7. 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  8. 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more if needed
  9. 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  10. 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh Italian parsley
  11. 3 tablespoons (packed) coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
  12. Boiling pasta cooking water


  1. Rinse the asparagus stubs and the leek and scallion tops well.
  2. Cut off any wilted or bruised parts.
  3. Rap each asparagus stub with a heavy knife handle or a small skillet to crush it a bit and open the inner layers.
  4. If a good whack doesnt mash it, throw that one away!
  5. Put the stubs, greens, garlic, and onion in a 2-quart saucepan and pour in 2 cups of water.
  6. There should be plenty to cover the vegetables; add more if necessary.
  7. Add the oil, salt, and peppercorns and bring the water to a boil.
  8. Cover the pot, adjust the heat to maintain a low bubbling boil, and cook for an hour.
  9. Lower the heat if the waters evaporating too fastthe vegetables should cook in water the whole time.
  10. Uncover after an hour, and boil off the water almost completely.
  11. Before theres absolutely none left, turn down the heat and stir as the last visible moisture evaporates, but dont let the soft vegetables stick to the pot or burn.
  12. Turn all the vegetables into the food processor and puree them thoroughly, scraping down the sides as necessary.
  13. If there are vegetable fibers that havent broken down that mar the texture of the sauce (there may not be any), strain through a sieve.
  14. Return the sauce to the processor bowl, drop in the parsley and basil, and puree again.
  15. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  16. Reheat before using; thin with boiling pasta water to a consistency you like.
  17. Store for several days in the refrigerator, or freeze for several months in airtight containers.
  18. Dressing and filling ravioli
  19. A base to a vegetable risotto
  20. A sauce for poached zucchini or asparagus