Delicate asparagus is gently scented with orange zest and basil (mint would also be nice). A sprinkling of subtle Asiago cheese allows each ingredient to shine equally.
- 3/4 pound pencil-thin asparagus
- 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
- Grated zest of 1 large orange
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into strips
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
1. Bend asparagus gently to snap off the tough ends (they break naturally at the right point); discard ends. Cut spears into 1 1/2-inch lengths. Set aside.
2. Combine garlic, orange zest, butter, salt, and pepper in pasta serving bowl. Set aside to warm to room temperature or, preferably, place the bowl (be sure it's heatproof) over the pasta pot to warm the ingredients and melt the butter while heating the water. Once the water comes to a boil, remove bowl and set aside.
3. Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until almost al dente. Add asparagus and cook until tender but still bright green, about 1 to 2 minutes longer. Drain pasta and asparagus well and immediately add to sauce in bowl. Sprinkle with basil and Asiago cheese and toss. Serve at once with extra Asiago cheese.
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