This recipe is totally out of season, but when I see asparagus on sale I have to just go for it. It’s usually so expensive that it stays on my “no” list, but I splurged a bit today when I saw asparagus on sale for $1.99/lb. I absolutely love asparagus so I wanted to keep the flavors of this dish simple. I went with a classic fresh and zingy lemon garlic combo and, as usual, stretched it all out with some pasta. This Lemon Garlic Asparagus Pasta is so incredibly fast and easy that it’s one of those recipes you’ll have memorized and return to again and again on busy nights. And guess what? you can totally sub broccoli florets when asparagus is not on sale. ;)
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Simple Lemon Garlic Asparagus Pasta
What Shape Pasta Should I Use?
The more experienced I get with food the more I realize that things like pasta shape really do matter. I wanted to use a pasta that was similar in size and shape as my asparagus pieces so that everything would mix easily in the skillet. Penne is an easy choice, but I’m a bit bored with it at the moment so I scanned the shelves for something a little more interesting. I settled on this campanelle, which is a little more tubular than the campanelle that I’ve used in the past, but it worked perfectly here. And the best part? Even “fancy” pasta is still pretty cheap. 😂
Can I Use Bottled Lemon Juice?
No, for this recipe you really need a fresh lemon because you’ll be using both lemon juice and lemon zest (which is totally a magic ingredient). Lemon zest allows you to use a lot of lemon flavor without a ton of acidity. Lemons can be expensive when purchased one at a time, so consider buying a bag of lemons and freezing the remaining lemons to juice and zest for other recipes.
Lemon Garlic Asparagus Pasta
- 8 oz. pasta ($0.95)
- 1 bunch asparagus (about 1 lb.) ($1.91)
- 2 Tbsp butter ($0.26)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced ($0.16)
- 1 lemon ($0.55)
- Salt and Pepper to taste ($0.05)
- Bring a pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Once boiling, add the pasta and continue to boil until the pasta is tender. Reserve about 1/2 cup of the starchy cooking water, then drain the pasta and set it aside.
- While the pasta is cooking, prepare the asparagus. Remove the bottom 1/2 to 1-inch of the stems, or just the part that is tough and woody. Chop the remaining asparagus into 1-inch pieces.
- Place the asparagus in a large skillet and add about 1/2 inch water. Place a lid on the skillet and bring the water up to a boil. Let the asparagus steam and simmer for about 2 minutes, or just until it turns bright green and has become slightly tender (test with a fork). Drain the asparagus and return it to the skillet.
- Add the butter and minced garlic to the skillet with the asparagus and place it over medium heat. Sauté the partially cooked asparagus in the butter and garlic for about two minutes more, or until the garlic becomes soft and fragrant. Turn off the heat.
- Add the cooked and drained pasta to the skillet with the sautéed asparagus. Toss the pasta in the skillet until it is combined with the asparagus and coated with garlic butter. Top with a generous pinch of salt and freshly cracked pepper.
- Use a zester or small-holed cheese grater to zest the lemon onto the pasta. Once zested, slice the lemon in half and squeeze the fresh juice over the pasta. Toss the pasta until everything is well combined, adding a splash of the reserved pasta cooking water if it becomes dry. Taste the pasta and adjust the salt, pepper, or lemon if desired. Serve warm.
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Scroll down for the step by step photos!
How to Make Lemon Asparagus Pasta – Step by Step Photos
Begin cooking 8oz. pasta first, because the rest of the skillet will be ready once the pasta is finished cooking. I chose this medium length tubular shape pasta because it is similar in size and shape to the asparagus. Boil the pasta until it’s tender, then reserve about 1/2 cup of the starchy cooking water before draining the pasta in a colander.
While the pasta is cooking, begin the rest of the dish. Chop off the tough woody ends of the asparagus (usually just the last 1/2 inch or so)…
Then chop the rest of the asparagus into 1-inch pieces.
Place the asparagus pieces in a large skillet and add about 1/2 inch of water. It doesn’t matter if the water covers the asparagus because it will cook in both the simmering water and the steam. Place a lid on the skillet, then bring it up to a simmer. Cook the asparagus in the simmering water and steam for only about 2 minutes, or until it turns bright green and is slightly tender when pierced with a fork.
Drain the water out of the skillet, then add 2 Tbsp butter and 2 cloves of minced garlic. Place the skillet over medium heat again and sauté the asparagus and garlic in the butter for about 2 minutes more, or until the garlic is soft, fragrant, and has lost its spicy edge.
By this point the pasta has probably finished cooking. Turn the heat under the skillet off and add the drained pasta. Toss to combine and coat the pasta in garlic butter.
Add a generous pinch of salt and freshly cracked pepper to the pasta. Use a zester or a small-holed cheese grater to zest the lemon onto the pasta. Cut the lemon in half and then squeeze fresh juice over the pasta.
Toss everything to combine again. If the pasta seems dry, add a splash of the reserved pasta water. Taste the pasta and adjust the salt, pepper, or lemon if desired. Serve warm.
And if you happen to have Parmesan, it’s excellent on this pasta (as usual). That being said, I think this pasta has a lot of bright flavors on its own and doesn’t at all NEED Parmesan. Adding the salt and pepper at the very end to a pasta that isn’t very saucy allows the little granules to stick to the outside of the lemon garlic asparagus pasta and remain undissolved, which gives you little pops of flavor in every bite.