This was a seriously delicious meal and not complicated or difficult to prepare. My one qualm with the recipe was that I had to pay attention, as it uses the same cooking water throughout, to maximize the flavor of the asparagus. I'm used to dumping used cooking water and refilling the pot for the next step, so while this wasn't exactly a big deal, it was out of the norm for me and I had to keep reminding myself not to dump the water. It probably didn't help that I was drinking copious amounts of white wine while cooking dinner, but that's par for the course around here. I like white wine, deal with it.
The ingredients for this dish are simple and minimal! Just 5 things are needed:
- 1 lb fresh asparagus, trimmed
- the zest of one small lemon
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lb pasta (I used cellentani, but penne or mafalde would work just as well)
- 1 cup cheese (I did mostly shaved parmesan with a bit of sharp cheddar)
- Cut asparagus into 1 inch pieces, setting tips aside for later. Cook stems in 5 to 6 quarts of boiling water with a sprinkling of sea salt until very tender, about 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to colander with a slotted spoon, reserving the cooking water in the pot.
- Put drained asparagus in a blender or food processor with the lemon zest, olive oil, and 1/2 cup of the cooking water and puree well.
- In the remaining cooking water, boil the asparagus tips for 3-5 minutes. Transfer them to the colander with a slotted spoon, saving the cooking water once again.
- Cook the pasta in the boiling asparagus cooking water (you can add a little more water to it if what's left isn't enough to cover the pasta) until it just a tiny bit harder than al dente (about 3/4 the recommended cooking time). Save the water AGAIN when you drain the pasta.
- Transfer the pureed sauce, cooked asparagus tips, and cooked pasta to another pot and cook over high heat for 3 to 5 minutes, adding 1/2 cup of the cooking water to the pot half way through.
- Ok, NOW you can dump the last of the cooking water. You're done with that.
- Once the sauce has thickened and loosely coats the pasta, add your cheese and stir, stir, stir. Cook for another minute or two until the cheese has all melted. Salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy.