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Author Notes: It was so cold back in February 2015 in Connecticut, and I had just bought my very first snow blower. Using it for the first time became a bit of a comedy, having put together components of the machine myself. You can imagine following the instruction guide was difficult, and shortly after powering it up the show chute half fell off. I no longer had control of the direction of the snow blasting out of the machine – and within five minutes I looked like I was wrapped in a cloak of white. I got the duck tape and managed a Band-Aid fix and somehow finished clearing the driveway. All that kept me moving was the thought of cooking something decadent once I could get back into my warm and inviting kitchen.
Back inside, I set about seeing what I had in the fridge, and what would answer my need for comfort food after that ordeal. I had remembered experimenting with lemon, cream and asparagus before, but on previous attempts it was missing something. This time around I added lemon zest and hot pepper flakes which added the needed acid along with a satisfying zip of heat. Yum. I ended the evening with a plate of this wonderful pasta sitting in front of the fire, while I looked up the local hardware store’s phone number to get some help with the diabolical snow blower the next day. —Jessmand
Serves 2 generous portions
- 1 pound asparagus
- 2 peeled garlic cloves, each sliced in two
- 2 tablespoons of lemon zest (or the zest from two lemons)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 cup cream
- 1/2 pound dried pasta (tagliatelle or something similar)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes or to your taste
- 4 ounces fresh ricotta, divided
- Freshly grated parmesan cheese, for serving
- sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
- Snap the asparagus where the woody and tender stem meet and cut the stems into 1/2-inch pieces.
- Warm the a nob of butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the asparagus and season with salt. Cook, stirring to turn and distribute the asparagus, until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Take off heat and reserve until ready.
- Add cream and garlic to a small sauce pan. Stir in the lemon zest and juice, all off heat and let steep until 10 mins before you'd like to serve the meal.
- 10 minutes (or so) before you'd like to eat, start to warm cream over low heat - add red pepper flakes and season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove the cream from the heat when a gentle steam starts to rise from the cream.
- When the water comes to a boil, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Scoop out about 1/3 cup pasta water, and set aside.
- Drain the pasta and add it to the asparagus along with the remaining butter. Place over medium heat. Use tongs to toss and melt the butter.
- Add the lemon cream to the asparagus and toss again. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more lemon zest or juice and salt if needed. If the pasta is dry, fold in some of the pasta water.
- Divide among 2 plates. Season with pepper. Sprinkle with parmesan. Drop 2 tablespoonful’s of ricotta on top of each. Devour. This is amazing.
- This recipe was entered in the contest for The Best Thing You Ate This Year