Linguine with Asparagus, Garlic, and Lemon

Halfway through typing up this recipe, I became aware of its resemblance to a certain something else that I’d made recently.  There’s pasta involved, along with asparagus.  And some parmesan cheese.  So I was actually thinking about not sharing it with you all; I don’t want you to think I’m one-note.  But then today, I ate the leftovers for lunch and remembered how good this was.  How light and summery and lovely.  And the awesome thing about it is that tastes just as good, if not better, the next day.  Even cold, from the tupperware. So, really, it’s win-win. 

And really, don’t we all find ourselves playing the variations-on-a-theme game in the kitchen at some point?  Sometimes you just get excited about a kitchen discovery and think, “What else would this work for?”  It may get a little tedious for people on the outside (sorry), but I think that one of the greatest things about cooking is getting something exactly the way you like it, then seeing how else you can make it work.  So yes, I did have an “aha!” moment when I threw my raw asparagus in with the cooking pasta for the first time, and yes, I am going to try this for pretty much any pasta dish I make that involves veggies.  It just makes sense.  Besides the fact that it saves me from dirtying another pot, and therefore from cleaning another pot. 

Not that the novelty of this pasta ends at fewer dishes.  First of all…. did you notice that my asparagus is purple?!  How awesome is that?  I was told by someone at the farmers’ market that it’s nuttier and more asparagus-y than normal asparagus (I kid you not), so of course I fell for it hook, line, and sinker.  But, really, they probably could have told me that it tasted no different from normal asparagus and I still would have bought it.  Because it’s purple.  Enough said.  And then I cut into it and it was beautiful green and white on the inside.  Swoon.

Of course, you’ll also notice that in the finished product it’s not so purple-y.  How disappointing.  Even the slightest steam turns this coach back into a pumpkin, if you know what I mean.  Darn.  Still delicious, though.  Cooking the asparagus alongside the pasta gives the entire mess a really nice, purely asparagus flavor, and the lemon zest serves this dish well, making everything taste bright and clean.  And it’s strange, but when I was slurping down eating this finished product, my mind kept playing this little trick on me… did I taste…. Hollandaise sauce?!  Something about the lemon and rich garlic-infused olive oil, paired with the asparagus,  must have done it.  Actually, I don’t care what did it.  I’ll go in for pasta that tastes like Hollandaise sauce any day of the week.  Can you blame me?

Linguine with Asparagus, Garlic, and Lemon

I hope you understand that you don’t really have to use purple asparagus here, that the regular old variety will get you the same outcome.  I wouldn’t mislead you into thinking that purple asparagus actually tastes any different… unlike a certain vendor at the farmers’ market… ahem.  You also don’t have to use linguine- pretty much any kind of pasta would be ok.  I do like how the linguine twirls around the asparagus spears, though… just sayin’.

1 lb of asparagus, cut into 1 inch long pieces, on the diagonal

1lb linguine, or other pasta

5-6 tablespoons olive oil

4 large garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon lemon zest

Salt and pepper to taste

2 oz. grated Parmeggiano-Reggiano

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Put pasta into boiling water and give it a stir so that the strands don’t stick together.  Linguine will take somewhere around 8 minutes total to cook, but if you’re using something else, follow the box directions.

While pasta is cooking, pour the olive oil into a small saucepan or frying pan and then add garlic.  Warm the oil over low heat, being careful not to let the oil get too hot.  If you notice the garlic browning, turn the heat way down.

After the pasta has been cooking for 6 minutes (or, for those using a different pasta: cooking time on the box MINUS two minutes), add the asparagus to the pasta water. 

Cook the pasta and asparagus for another two minutes.  When the pasta is done and the asparagus is tender, remove one or two ladlefuls of the pasta water into a mug or small bowl.  Drain the pasta and asparagus. 

Put the drained pasta and asparagus back into the large pot.  Remove the warmed garlic oil from the heat and carefully pour it over the pasta.  Sprinkle the lemon zest into the pot. Give it all a good toss, and if it seems dry, add a little bit of the reserved cooking liquid.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer pasta to serving bowl(s) and top with Parmigiano-Reggiano.


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