Asparagus is a spring vegetable my family is happy to eat all season long. It is versatile, fresh, and delicious. I love that my son, Collin – who is generally a picky eater – gladly devours the green stalks. And have you ever noticed it smells a bit like grass? It smells like spring!
This is a dish I’ve made a couple of times now. I came about it when I knew I wanted asparagus and pasta, lemony and creamy, and mushrooms for Earthy good measure. (Speaking of grass, mushrooms have a slight taste of dirt to them. This may sound unappetizing to some, but I’m seeing a perfect connection between asparagus and mushrooms – grass and dirt. Did I lose you? OK, back to the recipe.) The shrimp got thrown in there for fun. I rarely cook it, but recently it’s been showing up at our dinner table more and more, with no complaints from Tucker and I.
Here below is a picture-by-picture recipe. I’ll list the ingredients down at the bottom.
Sauté some mushrooms in butter. (There’s a fair amount of butter in this recipe, but don’t let that scare you away! Just go for a nice spring walk afterwards.) I used cremini, which are baby portobellos. I feel they have a bit more flavor than the white buttons, but any mushroom will work splendidly.
Toss in the asparagus stalks, except for the delicate heads, which require less cooking time.
While the grass/dirt combo is sizzling in butter, make the sauce. Put butter in a bowl with cream and lemon zest. Whisk together, and don’t worry about any clumps – as seen in my photo – because the hot pasta will smooth it all out nicely.
A few (important!) pasta basics (have your water boiling, ready to receive the noodles, by the way!): for one pound of pasta, use four quarts water. Pasta wants space to cook in, and it helps it not stick together. Once the water boils, add one tablespoon table salt ( or two tablespoons kosher). The water should be salty like the ocean. The pasta won’t absorb it all, but just the right amount. Stir right after adding the pasta. Giving it a good few swirls will keep it from sticking together. No need to add oil or anything to the water. Cook the pasta till al dente – you want a little bite. I like a little more bite than some. When you strain out the water, don’t rinse your pasta or else the sauce won’t stick to your noodles. Sauce immediately. Now eat your perfect pasta! Except if you’re following this recipe…then by all means continue on.
Add the tasty little asparagus heads and be gentle on them when stirring.
Scoot everything in the pan round the edges and nestle in your shrimp. Cook until a lovely pink.
Reserve a half cup or so of the pasta cooking water before straining in a colander. This is for thinning the sauce if needed. The starchy water is what you want for this, not plain water. If you’re like me, you’ve forgotten to get the water and dumped it all down the drain. I find it helpful to put a coffee mug or glass measuring cup right by the pot, or even better, in the strainer.
Sauce and toss the pasta in the bowl. It’ll be a thin sauce at first, but once you add the Parmesan, it’ll thicken right up. So add that Parmesan! (And please use Parmesano Reggiano!! You’ll thank me for the rest of your life!! It’s a little on the spendier side, but it’s soooooo worth it!!!)
With your skillet off heat, squeeze some lemon juice into the mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Toss the skillet mixture into your creamy, lemony pasta and give one more taste for seasonings – adjust as necessary.
Hope you enjoy this delicious dish as much as we do!!
A note for kids: if you have choosy kids, I would recommend setting aside a bit of the pasta with sauce in their separate bowl then adding from the skillet what they like. Or just sauced pasta if they don’t like anything from the skillet. For Collin, we gave him plenty of asparagus, a half of a shrimp, and a small bit of mushroom. He didn’t like the shrimp or mushroom, but he tried them. It’s always good to introduce – or re-introduce – the foods, even if they think (know!) they don’t like it. They’ll like them one day, right? Right?
Also, if asparagus isn’t your thing, or it’s later in the year, other vegetables can be substituted, such as peas or broccoli. Chicken instead of shrimp. Omit the mushrooms. Tweak it how you like!
Most important: sit and enjoy!
Lemon Cream Pasta with Asparagus, Mushrooms, and Shrimp
• 4 Tb butter at room temp (can soften in microwave, but do not melt)
• 1/2 c heavy cream
• zest from one lemon
• 1 c Parmesano Reggiano (plus a bit more for passing round the table)
• 1 lb pasta (such as fettuccine or linguini)
• 1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
• 8-12 oz mushrooms quartered ( or cut to the size you like)
• shrimp (how ever many you like)
• juice from 1/2 or whole lemon (give a taste to see how much you prefer)
• salt and pepper
(Read directions above for more detail.)
Cook pasta. Chop mush and asparagus and sauté in butter, adding tips of asparagus last (can do 1/2 butter and 1/2 extra virgin olive oil, if like). Scoot veg/mush over and sauté shrimp in same skillet – add a bit more butter if necessary. Squeeze in lemon juice off heat. Salt and pepper to taste.
Put room temp butter in warm bowl. Whisk in cream and zest of lemon. Set aside while pasta cooks. Cook to al dente and reserve some pasta cooking water. Strain. Add the pasta to the sauce and toss. Stir in Parmesan. Thin if needed.
Mix in veg/mush/shrimp. Season to taste. Eat and Enjoy!!