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THE CONFIDENT COOK

Recipe: A bunch of asparagus, a package of angel hair, and 10 minutes gets you a glorious dinner

Angel Hair with Asparagus, Lemon, and Chives
Angel Hair with Asparagus, Lemon, and ChivesSheryl Julian for The Boston Globe

Serves 4

On my package of angel hair, which says to cook the thin strands of pasta for three minutes, the numeral 3 is surrounded by a sunburst, as if even the manufacturer is surprised by the ridiculously short timing. Pretty remarkable, considering that you can add very few ingredients -- here asparagus, Parmesan, and chives -- and serve a glorious dinner. Make yourself an assembly line, so everything's right there at the stovetop. Saute short lengths of asparagus in olive oil, cook the angel hair (or capellini, which are also fine strands) in water, save some of that starchy cooking water, and tip the drained pasta into the asparagus with plenty of Parmesan and lemon rind. The cooking water goes in to moisten the pasta, but it never gets saucy, just very flavorful. When you serve it, sprinkle with more olive oil, more Parmesan, pepper, and chives. You've been at the stove less than 10 minutes and when you present the dish, you'll be bursting with pride.

Salt and pepper, to taste
1bunch fresh asparagus
3tablespoons olive oil
12ounces (3/4 pound) capellini or angel hair pasta
1cup pasta cooking water
1cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Grated rind of 1 lemon
Olive oil (for sprinkling)
2tablespoons freshly snipped chives

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

2. Meanwhile, snap the asparagus near the stem end; they should break when you bend them. Discard the ends of the stems. Cut the spears on the diagonal into 1-inch lengths.

3. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. When it is hot, add the asparagus, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes, or until the asparagus is bright green and almost tender.

4. Drop the capellini or angel hair into the boiling water and cook for 3 minutes, stirring once or twice, or until the pasta is tender but still has some bite. Before draining the pasta, dip a heatproof measuring cup into the cooking water and remove 1 cup.

5. Drain the pasta into a colander but do not rinse it. Transfer the pasta to the skillet. Over medium-low heat, add 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water, 1/2 cup Parmesan, and the lemon rind. Gently turn the mixture over medium-low heat for 3 minutes. Add more pasta water if the mixture seems dry (it will not be saucy).

6. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, if you like. Divide the pasta and asparagus among 4 shallow bowls. Sprinkle with olive oil, the remaining Parmesan, pepper, and chives.

Sheryl Julian

Serves 4

On my package of angel hair, which says to cook the thin strands of pasta for three minutes, the numeral 3 is surrounded by a sunburst, as if even the manufacturer is surprised by the ridiculously short timing. Pretty remarkable, considering that you can add very few ingredients -- here asparagus, Parmesan, and chives -- and serve a glorious dinner. Make yourself an assembly line, so everything's right there at the stovetop. Saute short lengths of asparagus in olive oil, cook the angel hair (or capellini, which are also fine strands) in water, save some of that starchy cooking water, and tip the drained pasta into the asparagus with plenty of Parmesan and lemon rind. The cooking water goes in to moisten the pasta, but it never gets saucy, just very flavorful. When you serve it, sprinkle with more olive oil, more Parmesan, pepper, and chives. You've been at the stove less than 10 minutes and when you present the dish, you'll be bursting with pride.

Salt and pepper, to taste
1bunch fresh asparagus
3tablespoons olive oil
12ounces (3/4 pound) capellini or angel hair pasta
1cup pasta cooking water
1cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Grated rind of 1 lemon
Olive oil (for sprinkling)
2tablespoons freshly snipped chives

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

2. Meanwhile, snap the asparagus near the stem end; they should break when you bend them. Discard the ends of the stems. Cut the spears on the diagonal into 1-inch lengths.

3. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. When it is hot, add the asparagus, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes, or until the asparagus is bright green and almost tender.

4. Drop the capellini or angel hair into the boiling water and cook for 3 minutes, stirring once or twice, or until the pasta is tender but still has some bite. Before draining the pasta, dip a heatproof measuring cup into the cooking water and remove 1 cup.

5. Drain the pasta into a colander but do not rinse it. Transfer the pasta to the skillet. Over medium-low heat, add 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water, 1/2 cup Parmesan, and the lemon rind. Gently turn the mixture over medium-low heat for 3 minutes. Add more pasta water if the mixture seems dry (it will not be saucy).

6. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, if you like. Divide the pasta and asparagus among 4 shallow bowls. Sprinkle with olive oil, the remaining Parmesan, pepper, and chives.Sheryl Julian


Sheryl Julian can be reached at sheryl.julian@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @sheryljulian.