Fresh Pasta with Asparagus and Lemon Sauce

 Part 2 of my Favorite Spring Meal - Home Made Pasta with Asparagus and Lemon Sauce. It's not spring without the bright flavor and vibrant green asparagus that heralds the coming of the new season. This part of the recipe is fast - it takes 20 minutes to make and makes enough sauce to serve 4. To round out the meal, serve it with a spring mix salad with balsamic macerated strawberries and sweet & spicy pecans. Serve a saute of julienne carrots and snow peas as a bright and colorful accompaniment. Or if you wish, seared scallops, sauteed shrimp, poached salmon or thin slices of grilled chicken are nice full proteins to add to your meal. The pasta can be served as either a side or as an appetizer.
The original recipe was found in Gourmet Magazine, May 2000. It contains only 5 Ingredients! adapted from a recipe by Faith Heller Willinger.

Asparagus Sauce Ingredients:
  • 1 lb or 1 bunch fresh asparagus – tough ends trimmed; stems cut into small pieces, tips reserved
  • Zest and Juice of 1 Lemon - finely grate the fresh lemon; use one medium sized lemon – which should yield a tablespoon of zest and 2 tablespoons of juice
  • 2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 lb Fresh pasta of choice – wide noodles work best
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiana-Reggiano, Peccorino Romano, or Locatelli - Plus more for sprinkling
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper

    Directions:
    1. Cut asparagus into 1-inch pieces. Reserve asparagus tips separately, for garnishing. Bring a large (4-6 quarts) pot of water to a rapid boil. Add 2 tablespoons of salt and the asparagus stems to the pot; cook for about 6 minutes, or until tender. Remove the asparagus stems with a slotted spoon, or small strainer; transfer the asparagus stems to a colander and rinse under cold water. Keep the cooking water for cooking the pasta and the asparagus tips. Drain asparagus stems well and transfer to a food processor or blender.
    2. Cook asparagus tips in same boiling water until just tender - about 3 minutes. Reserve the cooking water to cook pasta. Rinse the asparagus tips under cold water and set the tips aside. In a blender or food processor, puree the asparagus stems with the lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, Parmesan cheese and 1/2 cup asparagus cooking water. The puree should be smooth and bright green. Add a pinch of salt and a dash of freshly cracked pepper. Adjust your seasonings according to taste. The cheese is salty, so use salt sparingly.
    3. Into the same pot of water you cooked your asparagus, cook the pasta until it is just al dente. Fresh Pasta takes about 3-4 minutes to cook. Before you strain the pasta, reserve 2 cups cooking water. Drain pasta – but do not rinse.
    4. Using the same pot, add the puree mixture and cook over high heat to re-warm the sauce. Add the cooked pasta to the puree. If the sauce is too thick, use ½ cup of the reserved cooking water at little at a time to thin the sauce.
    5. The sauce should coat the pasta and be a bit loose. Add the asparagus tips to the pasta, stir to incorporate throughout. Serve pasta with a garnish of lemon zest and a sprinkling of the cheese. Serve immediately.

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