Lemony Cacio e Pepe with Broiled Asparagus

(serves 4)


A Twist with a Twist
Cacio e Pepe is a simple pasta dish that translates to “cheese and pepper.”  And it is literally flavored with just those two ingredients.  It’s a classic as is, but we can’t resist adding a little garlic and lemon.  While we’re at it, we feel that Cacio e Pepe is the perfect landing pad for some delicious 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.

Use the tender tips of the asparagus for this recipe.  The remainder of the stalks can be used in a cream of asparagus soup where they will be simmered and puréed.

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