Best Loved Recipes: Lemon Asparagus Pasta


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I decided to share some of my favorite recipes because, especially in the aftermath of the move and adjusting to life in a new city, cooking my favorite foods gives me a sense of continuity. When my life is in transition, I feel most grounded when I’m in the kitchen. Chopping and mincing, seasoning and sauteing, kneading and baking — when I enter the kitchen, my whole world shrinks. I stop worrying about whatever freelance assignments I’m juggling, or whether my latest job interview went well or not. Instead, I savor the flavors, the colors, the textures, the aromas in front of me.

I’ve cooked and baked my way through many a rough transition. I baked my emotions during my hormonal teenage years in my family’s narrow galley kitchen. I happily dropped the meal plan and cooked for myself senior year of college in my bland on-campus apartment kitchen. I staved off post-graduation anxiety during the first summer after college by experimenting with uncommon farmers’ market produce in the teeny tiny kitchen of the sublet I rented with the man who would become my husband. My husband and I made meals together often in the much larger kitchen of our next apartment, the one with the sloping ceilings and old fashioned red linoleum countertops, while we navigated jobs, grad school, and the stress of wedding planning. Now, I’ve squeezed myself and my growing collection of kitchen gear and cookbooks into our current, rather small kitchen and I’m still doing what I love best: cooking (and eating, of course).

Quick disclaimer: I’m not going to share anything fancy or unusual here. These are simple, get-dinner-on-the-table recipes and sometimes the measurements are just a rough guide because I don’t measure things very often, I just eyeball them.

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I adore asparagus and my husband loves pasta, so when my aunt introduced me to this easy pasta recipe a few years ago, it quickly became one of our favorites. We’ve been eating it a lot lately, because nothing beats fresh asparagus. I highly recommend picking some up at the farmers’ market instead of the grocery store if possible. This is also good with whole wheat pasta if you’re feeling healthy.

Aunt Deeda’s Lemon Asparagus Pasta

1 lb. penne pasta
1 bunch asparagus, cleaned, trimmed, and cut into 1 inch pieces
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup (give or take) olive oil
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and add the pasta. When the pasta is almost done, but not quite, add the cut up asparagus to the pot and bring it back to a boil. Cook the pasta and asparagus for 2-3 minutes (I like the asparagus to stay slightly crisp and crunchy) and then drain the contents of the pot and run cold water over everything to cool it down.

Meanwhile, make the dressing. Zest the lemon into a bowl, using more or less depending on how much citrusy zing you want. Add the lemon juice and then drizzle in the olive oil while you whisk the mixture together. Again, the ratio of lemon to olive oil depends on how you want it to taste, so test as you go to see what you like. Lastly, add the Parmesan. (Another trick is to put all the dressing ingredients in a mason jar and shake it vigorously to mix it up.)

Return the pasta and asparagus to the pot and toss with the lemon dressing. Dish it up, sprinkle on some more cheese if you like, and enjoy.

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