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Lemon Pasta and Asparagus

Lemon Pasta and Asparagus

Lemon Pasta and Asparagus

Serves 6

When spring invited me to lighten up my pasta, I let lemon take center stage. Zest, segments, and juice punctuate this Lemon Pasta and Asparagus with a bright, crisp flavor. Asparagus is a seasonal favorite and loves the company of lemons and this dish pairs them in a simple, silky sauce that lets them shine.

You'll chop the asparagus and cook briefly on the stovetop, but roasting (pictured here) adds a delightful, smoky flavor. A warm oven was the perfect antidote to a chilly spring night when I made this for dinner so let the weather dictate your method of cooking!

Lemon Pasta and Asparagus

To reveal the plump, jewel-like segments of lemon that make this dish a standout, you'll want to use a technique called "supreming" to remove the lemon segments without membranes or pith. Juicing the lemons is the next best thing if you don't have the extra few minutes to remove the segments...but do give supreming a try!

A light lemony sauce serves in a supporting role. Seasoned pasta cooking water is a cook's best friend when used to make sauces, gravies, and dressings. A little cornstarch thickens it into something barely noticeable but essential to the dish.

Lemon Pasta and Asparagus is a lovely spring dish, perfect for friends and family. Serve with a simple salad made from seasonal greens–arugula feels right–and enjoy!


1 pound of your favorite pasta


3 large lemons

2 shallots or a small onion, finely chopped

3 large cloves garlic, minced/pressed/grated

1 bunch of asparagus, bottom 2 to 3 inches trimmed, then diagonally cut into 2-inch pieces

2 tablespoons cornstarch

¼ cup hazelnuts or almonds, chopped (optional)

Ground black pepper


  1. Set a large pot of well-salted water to boil and cook pasta according to package directions.

  2. To remove the lemon segments, use a sharp knife to slice off the tops and bottoms of the lemons. Place a lemon cut side down on a cutting board. Following the shape of the lemon, carefully cut away the skin and white pith. Next, hold the lemon in your hand and carefully slice each section on either side of the membrane, removing the fruit sections until all fruit is cut from the center: This technique is called supreming. Repeat for the other lemons. Remove any pits from segments and set the segments aside in a separate bowl. Use your hands to squeeze out the juice from what's left of the lemon into the bowl with the segments.

  3. Heat a large pan over medium heat. Add the onion to the pan with a couple of tablespoons of water and a sprinkle of salt. Cook for a few minutes until the onion softens and turns translucent.

  4. Add the garlic and the asparagus. Cook for about 5 minutes, while stirring occasionally. (If the pasta isn't done by the time the asparagus is tender-firm, remove the pan from the heat and return it when the pasta is ready.)

  5. When the pasta is done, drain it while reserving 2 cups of the cooking water.

  6. Stir the cornstarch into the pan with the vegetables. Slowly add the pasta water to the pan while stirring. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for several minutes until the liquid thickens and coats the back of a spoon.

  7. Empty the lemon segments and juice into the pan and mix. Taste and add salt if desired.

  8. Transfer the pasta to the pan and gently toss to coat with the sauce.

  9. To serve, transfer pasta to a platter or individual bowls. Garnish with hazelnuts and cracked black pepper.

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