Asparagus pasta – light lemony
– so nice you will eat it twice
It’s June. In Colorado, that designation is almost meaningless – more than once I’ve bundled up in a winter gear to head out to a last day of school party or outdoor graduation ceremony. Still, this time of year, I get a hankering for the lighter flavors of the season. I especially love asparagus since it tends to be young and tender – quick, easy to fix and super delicious.
The recipe I’ve shared here is a riff on a few different recipes I came across as I was searching for ways to incorporate some especially wonderful asparagus I found at the store a few weeks ago. Lemon seems just right for this time of year, too, as do marinated artichoke hearts, pine nuts, basil and Parmesan cheese. All of these things suggest warmth and sunshine, even if the weather is unsure. Combined, these flavors are rich and satisfying without being at all heavy. I threw this dish together as a side with some lemon grilled chicken. Tasty. A pound of pasta plus all the other ingredients here makes several servings (more than my family and I could eat in one sitting), so I put the leftovers into the fridge, topped with the leftover chicken.
The next day, I squeezed just a bit more lemon over the leftovers and opted to eat the pasta cold, straight from the fridge. Something magical happened to this dish during its overnight chill. The flavors, already quite yummy, melded and deepened. That extra squeeze of lemon gave it just a little bit of perk, and the sauce soaked into all the components (particularly the chicken and the pasta) and gave them extra zest. As much as I liked this warm off the stove, I liked it even better straight out of the fridge.
In a few weeks, summer will officially begin, which means lots of meals on the grill and lots of sides to go with chicken, burgers and brats. This pasta would be amazing with any of those things. The starch of the pasta is a nice complement to all things grilled, and is markedly lighter than traditional pasta salad, potato salad, or even coleslaw. The flavors are all bright and clear, which means they serve as a perfect counterpoint to the smokiness of the grill. Or, if you’re looking for something light and easy, this is great on its own.
Whip up a batch of this pasta for dinner tonight and then enjoy it for lunch again tomorrow (and perhaps the day after that). It’s the perfect thing for a summertime supper, whether it’s warm and sunny or you need to make a little warmth of your own.
Light lemon asparagus pasta
- 1 pound medium shell-shaped pasta
- 1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces (discard the tough stem ends)
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 14-ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
- 2/3 cup grated Parmesan
- ½ cup pine nuts, toasted
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, sauté the asparagus and garlic in a tablespoon or so of the olive oil until the asparagus is crisp tender and bright green. Remove the pan from the heat. When the pasta is cooked, drain it and add it to the pan with the vegetables, then add the artichoke hearts, Parmesan, pine nuts, olive oil, lemon juice, basil and vinegar, stirring to combine. Season to taste and serve. Or, refrigerate for up to two days. Then, immediately prior to serving add a generous squeeze of lemon juice to “loosen” the mixture and serve.
Article and photo by Lisa Crockett