Pasta with Asparagus-Lemon Sauce

April 9, 2013

I know I’ll be on an asparagus kick very soon when all the local veggies start appearing at the market, so my goal is to get the recipes I made last year shared with you in time for the season this year! This pasta dish from the Gourmet Cookbook is another fast and easy weeknight supper, either as a stand-alone vegetarian main dish or an accompaniment to grilled chicken. I’ll definitely be making this recipe again this spring because we both loved the flavor!

Rather than simply including pieces of asparagus in a lemon sauce, this recipe separates the asparagus stems from the tips and purees the cooked stems to make up the bulk of the sauce. Each bite is full of fresh asparagus taste, and the lemon, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and extra-virgin olive oil round out the overall flavor.

The original recipe called for penne pasta, which I didn’t have, but I had some black-striped farfalle that I thought would look interesting! Any sort of short pasta that holds sauce well would work with this recipe; just be sure to start the water boiling before doing any other prep work to shorten the total start-to-finish time. Enjoy!

Pasta with asparagus-lemon sauce

Serves 8 as a first course or 4 as a main course


  • 1  pound asparagus, trimmed
  • 1  teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/4  cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1  pound penne or other short pasta
  • 1/2  cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Cut asparagus into 1-inch pieces, keeping tips separate. Cook asparagus stems in a 6- to 8-quart pot of boiling salted water (1 tablespoon salt for every 4 quarts water) until very tender, 6 to 8 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer to a colander (keep water at a boil) and rinse under cold water. Drain asparagus well and transfer to a blender or food processor.
  2. Cook asparagus tips in same boiling water until just tender, 3 to 5 minutes. With slotted spoon, transfer to colander (keep water at a boil) and rinse under cold water; drain.
  3. Add zest, oil, and ½ cup asparagus cooking water to asparagus stems and purée. Transfer to a 4-quart saucepan.
  4. Cook pasta in same boiling water just until it still offers considerable resistance to the tooth (about three-quarters of the recommended cooking time). Reserve 2 cups cooking water and drain pasta.
  5. Add pasta, asparagus tips, and ½ cup reserved cooking water to asparagus sauce and cook over high heat, stirring, for 3 to 5 minutes, or until pasta is almost al dente and sauce coats pasta. Add more cooking water ¼ cup at a time until sauce coats pasta but is a little loose (the cheese with thicken it slightly).
  6. Stir in cheese and salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring, until cheese is melted. Serve immediately.


  1. Looks and sounds delicious – thanks for the recipe. Asparagus is a favorite of mine and this will go down well!

    • You are very welcome! Hope you like the way it turns out! :)

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