Lemon Cream Pasta with Asparagus

I first learned how to make this dish in a food writing class I took over ten years ago.  The instructor prepared this dish and all the students had to writeup the recipe as one of our assignments.   I’ve enjoyed this recipe so much that I have kept it in my repertoire all these years.  It is very simple, yet elegant pasta dish that elevates any meal to whole new level.

2-4 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil                        

1 shallot, minced                                             

1 lb. fresh asparagus                                        

2 lemons                                                         

1 pint ( 2 cups) heavy cream                           

1 lb. penne                                                      

About ¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese   

Salt to taste

1 teaspoon crushed chili flakes                                                

Fill the stockpot half way with water and bring to a rolling boil.  Once the water is boiling, add pasta and add salt to taste.  Cook pasta for about 12 minutes or until al dente.

 In the meantime, heat 2 tbsp. of olive oil in the sauté pan and sauté, in medium heat, the minced shallots until they are transparent and translucent.

Discard stalks of asparagus and cut the remaining stems into 1-inch pieces.   Add the pieces into the pan and sauté for about two minutes.  Make sure the asparagus is not dry.  If it is, add two tbsp. of olive oil.  Salt to taste.

Using the microplane, zest the two lemons and add the zest to the asparagus.

Add the cream and bring to a boil.  Once the cream is boiling, reduce to a simmer.

Drain pasta and add it to the cream sauce in the sauté pan.  At this point, remove the sauté pan from the heat and make sure you coat the pasta completely with the cream sauce.  Add salt to taste and sprinkle with parmesan cheese and crushed chili flakes.