Lemony Pasta with Asparagus

April 19, 2010
12 Ratings
  • Serves 2
Author Notes

I love lemony spaghetti as much as I love asparagus, so I thought I'd combine these two flavors in this dead-simple pasta. No blanching is necessary for the asparagus -- you just sauté it in olive oil while the spaghetti cooks. Toss in garlic and lemon zest, and reiterate the lemon flavor later on by sprinkling in the juice once the spaghetti is in there. Grate some cheese, dollop on some ricotta, and a vibrant and grassy dinner is yours. —Amanda Hesser

What You'll Need
  • Sea salt
  • 1 pound asparagus
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon (Meyer, if possible)
  • 1/2 pound spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Juice of 1 lemon (Meyer, if possible)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese, for serving
  • 4 tablespoons fresh ricotta
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cut the asparagus where the tip and stem meet. Cut the stems into 1/2-inch pieces.
  2. Warm the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, until softened on the edges. Add the asparagus and season with salt. Cook, stirring to turn and distribute the asparagus, until crisp-tender, about 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the lemon zest. Remove from the burner.
  3. When the water comes to a boil, add the spaghetti and cook until al dente. Scoop out about 1/3 cup pasta water, and set aside. Drain the spaghetti and add it to the asparagus along with the butter. Place over medium heat. Use tongs to toss and melt the butter. Add half the lemon juice and toss again. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more lemon juice and salt if needed. If the spaghetti is dry, fold in some of the pasta water.
  4. Divide among 2 plates. Season with pepper. Sprinkle with parmesan. Drop 2 tablespoonfuls of ricotta on top of each. Devour.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Alja Musarro
    Alja Musarro
  • david e. samara
    david e. samara
  • farmmommy
  • FeastontheCheap
  • Amanda Hesser
    Amanda Hesser
Amanda Hesser

Recipe by: Amanda Hesser

Before starting Food52 with Merrill, I was a food writer and editor at the New York Times. I've written several books, including "Cooking for Mr. Latte" and "The Essential New York Times Cookbook." I played myself in "Julie & Julia" -- hope you didn't blink, or you may have missed the scene! I live in Brooklyn with my husband, Tad, and twins, Walker and Addison.

25 Reviews

Desertmoon March 3, 2022
This dish has it all! Lemon, spaghetti, asparagus. What’s not to love? I made this with angel hair because it’s what I had on hand but next time I will use actual spaghetti. Absolutely delicious. If I’m feeling a crowd I might work in some shrimp because why not, with the lemon and the garlic? I have asparagus on hand whenever possible so this will become a regular for me.
Desertmoon March 3, 2022
Feeding!!! A crowd
Dizzydog September 15, 2020
I am making this for what be the millionth time right now. I follow exactly and have done since 2014. All I"d say is thank you! My family, our friends and myself have loved and enjoyed this pasta over the years.
Amanda H. September 18, 2020
Thank you so much for letting me know!
Dizzydog September 15, 2020
I am making this for what be the millionth time right now. I follow exactly and have done since 2014. All I"d say is thank you. My family, our friends and myself have loved and enjoyed this pasta over the years.
julieray13 July 24, 2020
Excellent all around. I found it does not need as much butter.
Alja M. May 9, 2020
Fabulous. The lemon adds such a fresh, tasty flavor. I used parmigiana reggiano because that’s what I had. This one will become a regular go-to for me. Thanks!
Amanda H. May 9, 2020
Thanks, and happy to know it worked well for you!
david E. April 27, 2020
Apologies to Ms. Hesser and to readers who expected one thing then got another. This is what I had available in my Pandemic Pantry.
Parcook cut asparagus, blanch and shock in ice water. Drain & reserve. Quick pan saute of shallots (optional), garlic, black pepper, pinch of red pepper flakes, 1-2 T grated lemon rind plus 2-3 T jarred pesto (too much will overtake the flavors.) Add asparagus to warm through and don't cook down the lemon peel too much. Add al dente pasta with 1/2 cup reserved pasta water lightly salted due to the addition of 1/2 cup fine grated parmesan on top and gradually mixed in to create a creamy mix with the pan's flavored oil. Again, apologies. This took but a short bit of time and effort and was gone in less.
Dmo33 April 3, 2013
Really fresh! I added some chilli flakes to the sauteed asparagus for an extra kick - delicious.
Selin March 26, 2013
What a great way to welcome back asparagus this year!
farmmommy May 17, 2012
so simple, fresh and delicious. thank you! I'll be making this all asparagus season.
Amanda H. May 17, 2012
Glad you like it -- and thanks for reminding me to make it this year!
Cooking W. July 5, 2011
Thank you for such a wonderful recipe! I made this tonight and loved every bite!
Amanda H. July 6, 2011
Glad to hear it!
Woodside June 3, 2011
Used good whole-wheat pasta (orecchiette), topped with a dollop of mascarpone rather than ricotta. Very creamy, fresh with the lemon, and very simple and quick for a summer supper.
Amanda H. June 3, 2011
AEC May 4, 2011
Wishing I had asparagus but unwilling to make a trip to the market, I substituted broccoli. I've always loved lemon with broccoli, so I thought it would work. Delicious! Eager to use the spears next time, though.
Amanda H. May 4, 2011
Love hearing about variations -- thanks for the follow-up!
Kaja1105 April 27, 2011
I've been hoarding a few Meyer lemons (the season is pretty much over here in Southern California) and picked up some asparagus at the farmers market today with the idea of making this. It was wonderful! I'll be dreaming of that taste (and smell) until the lemons are back in season.
Amanda H. April 27, 2011
Great -- thanks for letting us know!
BetsyLynnS April 11, 2011
The sun finally appeared today and this recipe looks perfect for a Monday night dinner.
Amanda H. April 11, 2011
Hope it turned out well. Merrill and I are in Maryland this evening and we ate dinner outside -- a first for this year. Lovely.
FeastontheCheap April 19, 2010
Looks wonderful - and deliciously simple... Beautiful photos, PS
Amanda H. April 19, 2010
Thanks -- they're taken by Sarah Shatz!