Creamy Pasta with Asparagus
Committee meeting working lunch, 4/19/12; Community training dinner and demonstration 4/23/12
Adapted from Bon Appetit
Total time to make this recipe: only what it takes to boil the water, make the pasta, and stir. You can use whatever fresh seasonal vegetables are available in this recipe. Asparagus is great, but so are peas, green beans, zucchini, spinach, or anything else you have. Boiling times will vary for different vegetables, so you may need to add them to the pasta earlier or later. Zucchini and spinach can go in raw with the hot pasta.
- 1 pound pasta, medium-sized shape like rotini, penne, or medium shells
- 1 pound asparagus (or substitute another fresh, seasonal vegetable – see note above)
- 5 oz cream cheese (or use ⅓-less-fat cream cheese [called neufchatel cheese] or goat cheese, if available)
- ¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (you can substitute melted butter, if needed)
- 1 lemon, zest (grated peel, yellow only – no white part, which is bitter) and 1 tablespoon juice
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil, dill, or tarragon
- ½ teaspoon black pepper, preferably freshly ground
Set a large pot of salted water on the stove and bring to a boil.
Meanwhile, prepare the asparagus: snap off the bottoms of the stalks (they are tough, so just break off about 1-2 inches – it should snap naturally). Discard the bottoms, or save them for the next time you are making a chicken or vegetable stock. Chop the stalks into 1-2 inch pieces, about the same size as your pasta shape. If using another vegetable, cut it into bite-sized pieces.
When the water comes to a boil, add your pasta. Set a timer for 3 minutes less than the cooking time suggested on the package. While pasta cooks, prepare the sauce: in a large bowl, place the cream cheese, parmesan cheese, lemon zest and juice, chopped herb (basil, dill, or tarragon), and black pepper.
When timer goes off, add the chopped asparagus to the pasta and reset the timer for 2-3 minutes. Use a ladle or measuring cup to remove ½ cup of the pasta water, and add this hot pasta water to the sauce ingredients in the bowl. Whisk everything together to make as smooth a sauce as you can (some lumps are fine – the hot pasta will melt them).
When the pasta and the asparagus are tender (taste them to make sure), drain them together. Add the hot pasta and asparagus to the bowl with the sauce. Toss or stir to coat evenly. Taste, and add additional salt and pepper if needed.