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Asparagus is the highlight of this pasta

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Sautéing asparagus in butter mellows it, bringing out its sweetness. Mixed with peas, mint, Parmesan and cream, it makes the foundation of a rich pasta dish with primavera vibes, but easier, faster and brighter, thanks to some grated lemon zest folded in at the end. If you can’t get good asparagus, feel free to substitute other quick cooking vegetables, like zucchini, corn or mushrooms. This delightful cream sauce is highly adaptable.

Creamy Asparagus Pasta With Peas and Mint
• 1 teaspoon fine sea salt or table salt, more as needed
• 1 pound short pasta, such as campanelle
• 1 pound asparagus (about 1 bunch), trimmed
• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 3/4 cup frozen green peas (no need to thaw)
• 4 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced
• 1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
• 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 3/4 cup heavy cream
• 3/4 cup grated Parmesan, more for serving
• 1 lemon, zested and halved
• 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint (or use parsley, basil or dill), for serving
• Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook pasta until al dente according to package directions.

As the pasta boils, slice asparagus stems into 1/4-inch-thick pieces; leave asparagus tips whole.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add asparagus, peas, scallions and red-pepper flakes. Cook until vegetables are bright green and just tender (but not soft or mushy), 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook 1 minute more. Season with the salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper; pour mixture into a large serving bowl.

To the same skillet, add the heavy cream, 1/2 cup grated Parmesan and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Simmer until reduced and thick, about 2 to 3 minutes. Return vegetables to the skillet and toss with the sauce to reheat.

When the pasta is done, reserve 1/2 cup pasta water, then drain well.

Immediately put the hot pasta in the same bowl you used for the vegetables and toss with remaining 1/4 cup grated Parmesan, lemon zest and mint. Add vegetable-cream mixture and the juice of half a lemon, and toss well. If the mixture looks thick, add a little pasta water to loosen it; it should be saucy. Taste and season generously with salt, pepper and more lemon juice as needed; it should taste bright and lively. Serve, topping each bowl with more Parmesan, mint and a drizzle of olive oil.

Total time: 30 minutes, serves 3-4.

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