This asparagus pasta recipe showcases fresh spring asparagus in all its glory! Pasta coated with butter and basil pesto envelope pieces of tender asparagus, onions, and garlic.
A dusting of toasted breadcrumbs, a sprinkle of parmesan cheese, fresh lemon zest, and pop of red pepper flakes complete this simple and satisfying vegetarian pasta dinner!
There’s nothing better than a quick pasta dinner. Especially one that is packed with as much flavor as this recipe! It’s fresh and bright and just a bit spicy. It tastes like spring in a bowl! You’ll love this fresh asparagus pasta all season long.
In fact, last spring, when our ditches were absolutely bursting with asparagus we ate this meal at least once a week. We would go and gather fresh asparagus from the roadsides and fields, it was so tender and sweet you could eat it raw, and then return home to enjoy this simple dinner.
Ingredients for this recipe
- Fresh Asparagus
- Olive Oil
- Red Pepper Flakes (totally optional, but I think it makes the dish!)
- Parmesan Cheese
- Toasted Breadcrumbs
In addition to how flavorful and filling this pasta recipe is, I also love how quickly it comes together. In as much time as it takes for the pasta to boil, you can sauté the vegetables and have the pan ready and waiting for the perfectly al dente noodles. From there, it’s just adding a few more ingredients to complete the dish. Voila! A simple, weeknight vegetarian dinner in under 25 minutes!
Using fresh asparagus in pasta
- Boil the pasta. I like to use a spaghetti, linguini, or fettuccine noodle. Something long that will make perfect swirls and soak up the beautiful sauce. Reserve a cup of the pasta water for later.
- Sauté the onions and garlic. In butter and olive oil until tender and fragrant.
- Sauté the asparagus. And a few pinches of red pepper flakes in the same skillet until tender, this will take only a few minutes.
- Add the cooked pasta, basil pesto, and more butter. Mix it all together until everything is combined. If desired, add a splash of white wine or the reserved pasta water.
- Garnish the spring pasta. With lemon zest, freshly shredded parmesan, and toasted breadcrumbs.
How to trim fresh asparagus
When we forage for asparagus in the spring, it comes in all different lengths. When we buy it at the grocery store, all the stalks are virtually the same. The good news is that if you’re buying or growing the asparagus, the method for trimming the stalks is the same!
Hold a stalk of asparagus in your hand. Gently bend the stalk near the bottom, keep bending until it breaks. The small part that breaks off is the tough, woody part that isn’t any good to eat. You want tender pieces of asparagus for this dish. And any other one, really!
Take that stalk of asparagus and line it up with the remaining stalks, from the top down. Using the broken stalk as a guide, cut off all the ends of the other stalks to the same length. Now all the woody, inedible ends have been cut off!
I love adding toasted breadcrumbs to pasta and salad recipes. They add a perfect amount of crunch and textural contrast, without detracting or distracting from the rest of the dish.
To perfectly toast breadcrumbs: melt 1 TBSP butter in a skillet. Add ¼ cup plain breadcrumbs and stir to combine. Cook over medium heat, stirring regularly, until breadcrumbs are deeply browned and smell toasty.
Store any leftover breadcrumbs in an airtight container for up to one month.
More great pasta dinners
Asparagus Pasta Recipe
- Large Skillet
- 1 pound spaghetti noodles or other pasta of choice
- 2 TBSP olive oil
- 8 TBSP salted butter divided
- 1 small white onion diced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 pound asparagus trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
- ½ - 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
- ½ cup basil pesto sauce
- Lemon zest for serving
- ½ cup freshly shredded parmesan cheese for serving
- ¼ cup toasted breadcrumbs for serving
- Kosher salt to taste
- Cook the pasta according to package instructions in a large pot of heavily salted water. (It should be so salty it tastes like the ocean.)
- In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and 2 TBSP of the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and a sprinkle of kosher salt, to taste, stirring to coat. Cook the onion, stirring occasionally, until it softens and begins to become translucent, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Stir in the asparagus, red pepper flakes, and a pinch more kosher salt. Cook until asparagus pieces are tender, about 3 minutes more.
- While the asparagus is cooking, drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water. Once the asparagus is tender, add the cooked pasta to the skillet.
- Add the pesto and 4 – 6 more TBSP of butter (or to your preference) to the skillet, tossing everything until pesto has coated the pasta and butter is melted. Add a splash of the reserved pasta water to thin the sauce, if desired.
- Garnish the pasta with fresh lemon zest, parmesan cheese, and toasted breadcrumbs to serve.
- Leftover pasta can be stored in the fridge for up to four days.
- White wine can be used in place of the pasta water, if desired.
- Refer to post on how best to trim asparagus.
- Refer to post on how to easily toast breadcrumbs.