Sunday, January 3, 2010

Asparagus Pasta

1 lb fresh asparagus, tough ends trimmed
1 tsp finely grated fresh lemon zest
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb whole wheat penne or pasta of choice
1/4 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano

Cut asparagus into 1" pieces, reserving tips separately. Cook asparagus stems in 5 to 6 qrt boiling water with 2 Tbsp salt until very tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a colander, reserving cooking water in pot, and rinse under cold water. Drain asparagus well and transfer to a food processor or blender.

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

Purée asparagus stems with zest, oil, and 1/2 cup asparagus cooking water. Transfer sauce to a 4-qrt saucepan.

Cook pasta in boiling asparagus cooking water until it still offers considerable resistance to the tooth, around three fourths of the recommended cooking time. Reserve 2 cup cooking water and drain pasta.

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

Stir in Parmigiano-Reggiano and salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring, until cheese is melted.

Serve immediately.

Tips from Chelsea: I drizzle the tips with EVOO and a bit of kosher salt and roast them for about 6-8 minutes at 450 instead of boiling them, they are crispy and YUM that way. Most of the time I will also grill a couple of chicken breasts, cut them into chunks and throw them in. That really makes it into a full dinner.

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