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Creamy Lemon Asparagus Pasta

Prep Time25 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time45 mins
Servings: 4 to 6
Calories: 485kcal
Author: Nisha Vora

Equipment

  • Tongs

Ingredients

  • 10 to 12 ounces of spaghetti, bucatini, linguine, or fettuccine
  • 2 medium-large lemons*
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 medium shallots, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 bunch of asparagus (about 14 ounces), sliced thinly on the diagonal into 1-inch pieces**
  • ½ cup (60g) toasted or roasted walnuts***, finely crushed
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • ½ cup (6-7g) Italian flat-leaf parsley, (leaves and tender stems), chopped
  • ½ cup (7-8g) fresh basil leaves, slivered
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained
  • ¼ cup (30g) Castelvetrano olives, sliced in half (7 to 9 olives)****
  • 1 can of navy beans or other white beans rinsed and drained (optional)

Instructions

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta.
    Tip: Don’t use too much water, otherwise the pasta water won’t be very starchy. I recommend about 9 cups (~2.1 L) of water for 10 to 12 ounces of pasta. Once the water is nearly boiling, add a generous amount of salt (2 to 3 teaspoons of kosher salt).
    Add the pasta and once it returns to a boil, cook according to the package directions, stirring occasionally, until just al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking liquid.
  • Zest the lemons and divide the zest into two piles (you'll get about 1 tablespoon zest per lemon). Set aside.
  • Meanwhile, make the Lemon Sauce. Add the juice from both lemons (about 6 tablespoons) to a mason jar. Add ¼ cup (56g) extra virgin olive oil, Dijon mustard, and season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and black pepper to taste. Shake until emulsified.
    No jar? Just whisk all the ingredients in a bowl until emulsified.
  • Cook the asparagus. Meanwhile, heat 1 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a 12-inch sauté pan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Once warmed, add the shallots and garlic. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until the garlic is just golden, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Add the red pepper flakes (if using) and cook for 30 seconds.
    Add the asparagus pieces and one half of the lemon zest. Season with a few pinches of salt and pepper. Cook for 3 minutes until the asparagus is crisp-tender. Remove from heat and set the pan aside until the pasta is done.
  • Add the hot cooked pasta and the Lemon Sauce to the asparagus mixture, along with the crushed walnuts and nutritional yeast. Add ½ cup (120 mL) of the reserved pasta water. Return the pan to medium-high heat. Use tongs to vigorously toss everything together, shaking the pan as you go, adding more pasta water as needed, until the sauce is emulsified and clings to the pasta.
  • Add the remaining half of the lemon zest, basil, parsley, capers, olives, and white beans (if using). Toss again and briefly cook for 1 minute. Sprinkle with a final pinch or two of salt and black pepper before serving. Serve warm.

Video

Notes

This recipe is inspired by Spaghetti al Limone with Asparagus from Bon Appétit
* The lemons should feel heavy for their weight. If you can't find lemons that are medium-large, buy an extra third lemon to ensure you get enough zest and juice. 
** To see how to trim and slice asparagus, watch the video in the "how to cut asparagus" section. 
*** To toast raw walnuts, just add to a dry skillet over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until a bit browned and fragrant, 4 to 5 minutes. You can also use raw walnuts, but you'll get more flavor from toasted. 
*** If your olives are already pitted, slice them in half. If they have the pits inside, here's how to remove the pits