Pasta with Asparagus-Lemon Sauce Pasta with Asparagus-Lemon Sauce

Serves 4

1 lb. fresh asparagus, tough ends trimmed
1 lb. penne, malfalde or other pasta
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Freshly ground black pepper

Cut asparagus into 1-inch pieces, reserving the tips.
Cook asparagus stems in 5-6 qt. boiling water w/2 tablespoons salt until very tender, 6-8 min. Transfer w/a slotted spoon to a colander, reserving the cooking water in the pot, and rinse under cold water. Drain the asparagus well and transfer to a food processor or blender.

Cook the asparagus tips in the same boiling water until just tender, 3-5 min. Transfer with a slotted spoon to the colander, reserving the cooking water in the pot, and rinse under cold water. Drain the tips well.

Puree the asparagus stems with the lemon zest, oil and 1/2 cup of the asparagus cooking water. Transfer to a large saucepan.

Cook the pasta in the boiling asparagus cooking water until it still offers considerable resistance to the tooth, around 3/4 of the recommended cooking time on the package. Reserve 2 cups of the cooking water and drain the pasta.

Add the pasta, asparagus tips and 1/2 cup of the reserved water to the asparagus sauce and cook over high heat, stirring for 3-5 min, or until the pasta is almost al dente and the sauce coats the pasta. Add more cooking water, 1/4 cup at a time, until the sauce coats the pasta but is a little loose (the cheese will thicken it slightly).

Stir in the cheese, salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring until the cheese is melted. Serve immediately.

From The Best American Recipes 2001-2002, and originally in Gourmet magazine.

PlantLust notes -
I trim the very end of asparagus stems and then peel the stringy stuff off. Not NEARLY as much waste as discarding the "tough" ends.

I IMMEDIATELY transferred the asparagus stems to the blender, which already had the oil and lemon zest in it. No draining, no cold water rinse.

I used small pasta shells. Holds more sauce <G>.

This dish reminds me of Subtraction Soup in The Phantom Tollbooth. The more you eat the hungrier you get. I think adding shrimp to this would be lovely and more filling.
I suspect this dish would also work wonderfully with broccoli.

Also forgot to add, the 2nd time I made this I used 2 lbs of asparagus. Better sauce to pasta ratio.

FitnessNut's Note:

This was divine. Shrimp added the perfect touch to this dish. I just cooked about a pound of shrimp in the reserved water while the cheese was melting into the sauce. Piggies that we are, DH and I ate most of it ourselves ;-) I'll certainly be making this one again.