With the onset of beautiful weather, do you find yourself wanting to stay out and play just a bit more? Now that spring has arrived, we celebrate the sunshine and the arrival of cherished friends as they pop up at the market. Tender fresh asparagus is the first thing to go into our basket as we look forward to the bounty of the season's flavors. A delicious and simple way to prepare it is drizzled with a bit of olive oil and flashed under a broiler for a few minutes. Gotta love that slightly charred flavor! Asparagus prepared this way is an excellent side dish, but read on for a way to make it the main attraction.
As the days get longer and we want to extend our play time, we're trying to make dinner prep shorter. Enter Cacio e Pepe, one of our favorite go-to’s. It's a classic Roman pasta dish that couldn't be simpler to make and we'll bet you a nickel that you have all the ingredients in your kitchen already. Cacio e Pepe - translated as “cheese and pepper” - is the perfect landing pad for broiled asparagus. Along with that, we can't resist adding just a few additional ingredients (also likely to be in your kitchen) like lemon, garlic and parsley to elevate the flavor of the meal. This simple yet delicious dish comes together in about 20 minutes, allowing you plenty of time to get out and play a little longer.
Do you ever wonder how far down to trim asparagus before you get to the fibrous part of the stalk? Bend a stalk between your fingers. The place where it snaps naturally is where it becomes tougher. Instead of throwing away those tougher parts of the stalk, it’s a great idea to reserve them for a cream of asparagus soup where they will be simmered and puréed.
Lemony Cacio e Pepe with Broiled Asparagus
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed to remove fibrous part of stalks
2 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
1 Tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 lbs angel hair or thin spaghetti (preferably dried pasta instead of fresh)
salt for cooking water
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (reserve 2 Tbsp for serving)
zest and juice of 1 lemon, separated
1 Tbsp chopped parsley
Preheat broiler. Place oven rack in position closest to broiler element. Arrange asparagus on foil-lined sheet pan. Do not crowd the asparagus. Drizzle with olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Place under broiler for several minutes until tips of asparagus become a little charred. Remove from broiler and toss asparagus with tongs to char evenly. Sprinkle with Parmesan and return to broiler for one minute. Remove and set aside.
In a large pot, cook pasta in generously-salted boiling water according to package instructions, until it is just barely al dente. Drain pasta, reserving about 1 cup of the cooked pasta water.
While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter and add the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the pepper and garlic, and cook for 1 minute. Do not allow the garlic to brown. Ladle out about 1/2 cup of the pasta water, and slowly and carefully add it to the melted butter mixture. Whisk until combined, adding more water if needed.
Remove pan from heat. Gradually add in the cheese and whisk until combined. Stir in the lemon zest. Using tongs, add pasta in increments, combining it with the sauce as you go. Stir in the lemon juice and parsley. Divide pasta on plates, sprinkle with remaining Parmesan and top with asparagus.