Folks who are familiar with London's legendary River Café may know it as the restaurant that's launched the careers of countless chefs. Jamie Oliver and April Bloomfield are just two of its celebrated alumni, always referring back to their days cooking under founders Ruth ("Ruthie") Rogers and the late Rose Gray in fond, reverent tones.
Founded in 1987, the River Café recently celebrated its 30th anniversary, and with it comes a new cookbook housing some of its greatest hits (revised and updated!), as well as 30 new classics. River Cafe London: Thirty Years of Recipes and the Story of a Much-Loved Restaurant is out this week and takes you through course after course of the simple, seasonal Italian fare that makes up the beloved institution's DNA.
One of those dishes is the Tagliarini with Asparagus and Herbs. There's no better way to herald the start of spring with greener-than-green mix of thin, tender asparagus and all the herbs, tossed in a tangle of noodles in a silky sauce—a delicious beauty that didn't last very long in our test kitchen.
"The heavy cream in this recipe made the dish feel luxurious, rich, and savory," our Test Kitchen Director Josh Cohen says. "At the same time, it's balanced by the asparagus and tons of fresh herbs. This pasta is perfect for now." We made the recipe here using homemade, fresh pasta, but dry tagliarini or tagliatelle would work just as well.
I had the chance to chat with the iconic Ruthie Rogers herself on the new book, and where the River Café enjoys its perch, 30 years later. A snippet of the interview below.
HANA ASBRINK: How have River Café classics been updated with the changing times? What are some of the dishes that haven't budged at all in the last 30 years?
RUTHIE ROGERS: Over time, the Italian ingredients we depend on have been easier to source as the markets have become more accessible. Since opening in 1987, dishes that have remained on the menu are Grilled Squid with Rocket and Chilli, Farinata, Risotto all’Amarone, Pear and Almond Tart, and Caramel Ice Cream.
HA: What was the inspiration behind the tagliarini with asparagus recipe?
RR: We cook this pasta when asparagus is in season and we cut them almost as thin as the tagliarini.
HA: How has the culinary scene changed in London over the last 30 years? Is there more focus on health now?
RR: Everyone is more conscious of how eating seasonal, fresh ingredients make us more happy and healthy.
HA: As a busy entrepreneur and chef, what does wellness look like for you? What are your favorite River Café recipes to make for yourself?
RR: Wellness is about feeling energetic, being inspired, and feeling responsible for the world around us. In my own time, I love to make Pappa al Pomodoro, Langoustines with Borlotti Beans, Slow-Cooked Peas, and Sea Bass Baked in Salt.
Tagliarini with Asparagus and Herbs
pounds (675g) thin asparagus spears
garlic cloves, peeled
tablespoons chopped mixed fresh herbs (basil, mint, parsley, oregano)
tablespoons (100ml) heavy cream
tablespoons olive oil
cup (50g) unsalted butter
ounces (250g) tagliarini or tagliatelle
ounces (120g) Parmesan, freshly grated
Do you have a favorite spring pasta? Share it with us below!