This is one of my favorite pasta dishes. Mushrooms provide a rich and earthy flavor that’s brightened by asparagus and lemon. And it’s pasta after all! Generous amount of Parmesan cheese or only a little bit won’t hurt either. It only takes about 30 minutes from start to finish to make it. On a busy weeknight I need all the help I can get.
This pasta dish looks and tastes pretty sophisticated thanks to the main ingredients, asparagus, mushrooms and lemon juice. You would never guess that it is so easy to make it.
This pasta dish is wonderful with any kind of mushrooms but some mushrooms like shiitake or oysters have more flavor than crimini, for example. I tend to have the brown crimini mushrooms in my fridge, so that’s what I often use to make this pasta, but if I plan ahead I will try to buy a few different kinds of mushrooms.
Mushrooms have tons of health benefits. They provide several vitamins and minerals, boost our immune system, are a great source of antioxidants and speed up our metabolism. What is interesting is a fact that brown crimini mushrooms and portobello mushrooms are the same type of a mushroom harvested at different points in their growth.
Umami, or savory taste, is one of the 5 tastes that all humans have. The sensors on our tongues can detect sweet, salty, bitter and sour tastes in addition to the savory one. Umami is what makes a particular dish taste delicious. A very specific amino acid called glutamate and two other chemical compounds found in certain foods create the umami taste. Foods rich in umami include ripe tomatoes, aged cheese like Parmesan cheese, fish and shellfish, mushrooms, soy sauce and cured meat.
So, even though this Lemon Pasta with Mushrooms and Asparagus calls for only few ingredients, they are the “right” kind making it very delicious and sophisticated.
Start the recipe by putting a large pot of water to boil. In the meantime, trim the tough ends off of asparagus. Some chefs recommend snapping off the ends with your hands saying that the really tough part won’t snap. So, if it snaps it is nice and crunchy. I like to use a knife and if there is a resistance where I try to cut I move the knife higher. Next, cut each spear diagonally into 1 inch pieces. Put the cut asparagus into boiling and salted water and blanch for about 1 minute. With a slotted spoon transfer blanched asparagus into a bowl full of very cold water. It will stop cooking and preserve the vibrant green color. Keep the water simmering, you will use it to cook the pasta in it since the water is now full of flavor.
When the asparagus is done start preparing the mushrooms. Wash them quickly without letting them absorb too much water, then dry. Trim the ends and then cut the mushrooms into medium size pieces. If using portobello mushrooms remove the gills first by gently scraping them out using a spoon.
When the mushrooms are prepared, chop the onion and mince the garlic. Heat a large skillet up and add some olive oil. Cook the onion first, then add the garlic. After 1 minute add the mushrooms, salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes then add some vegetable broth and lemon juice. Simmer for 7-10 minutes.
Return the asparagus water to boil (add more if not enough) and add pasta. Make sure the water is salty enough. While the pasta is cooking, return the drained asparagus into the skillet. Add chopped parsley and sunflower seeds. Stir and let it simmer until the pasta is cooked. The pasta I like to use here is called Lemon Pepper Pappardelle from Trader Joe’s. If you can’t get it make sure you use both lemon juice and zest to make this dish full of lemon flavor.
When the pasta is cooked drain it but leave a bit of water. Add the pasta and 4-5 tablespoons of water into the skillet. Stir everything gently. Season with more salt, pepper and lemon juice/zest if needed. Add grated Parmesan cheese, stir and serve.
- 1 lb (1 bunch) asparagus, tough ends removed, cut diagonally into 1 inch pieces
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 medium size onion, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 lb mushrooms ( crimini, portobellos, shiitakes ), cleaned and quartered
- salt and pepper
- 1/2 cup vegetable broth
- juice of 1 lemon
- if using plain pasta add zest of 1 lemon
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- a handful of sunflower seeds
- 2 packages of Trader Joe’s Lemon Pepper Pappardelle Pasta or 1 lb fettuccine pasta
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, divided in half
- Bring a big pot of salted water to boil. In the meantime, trim off tough ends of asparagus and cut the spears diagonally into 1 inch pieces.
- Blanch asparagus in boiling water for 1 minute. Transfer to a bowl full of cold water to prevent discoloration. Preserve the cooking water. Drain asparagus.
- Clean and chop the mushrooms. If using portobello mushrooms remove the gills from underside using a spoon. You want to have about 1 inch long pieces of mushrooms to match the asparagus spears.
- Heat a large skillet up and add the olive oil. Add chopped onion, cook for about 5 minutes, then add garlic. Stir a few times and add chopped mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper and cook for about 5 minutes, until softer.
- Add vegetable broth, lemon juice and zest (if using plain pasta). Simmer for 10 minutes.
- Return the cooking water to boil. Add pasta and cook 7-9 minutes. While pasta is cooking add the drained asparagus into the skillet. Simmer.
- Drain the pasta leaving a bit of water. Add pasta into the skillet and 4-5 tablespoons of water if it’s too dry. Stir and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Adjust the seasonings. Add about 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese into the skillet.
- Serve. Pass more cheese at the table.