creamy asparagus pasta

 Chris Kimble was the founding foodie of America's Test Kitchen, a veritable institution in innovative kitchen technique, but it ran its course at least in his heart and he moved on to international cuisine at Milk Street. Lucky for us, because it is a fountain of great recipes from around the globe. Some weekends we catch his TV show, now less frequently we catch his radio show since it moved time slot, but there is the usual Facebook feed posts that whiz by on the ad laden scrolling strip spilling over with inappropriate suggested posts. This one came from such a post, and the asparagus alternative twist on the deadly traditional fettucini Alfredo dish immediately caught our attention.

The cup of heavy cream was a bit troubling, since we usually shy away from adding lots of bad fat to our recipes, but we replaced it by 3/4 cup of half and half, which roughly drops the fraction to 3/8 of the intended injection, no? Or is that bad kitchen math?

bob decided to reserve the asparagus tips for the final finish and ani decided to cook them in the boiling pasta water and set aside for later application. The rest of the food processed asparagus we dumped into the saute phase. Otherwise we essentially toed the line on the written recipe instructions.

And the result was indeed creamy and tasty, that extra shot of lemon zest and juice comes through really nice in the flavor profile. We went with 4 minute papardelle from bionaturae, 8.5 oz = 250 g, so half a full pound of pasta in typical recipes. Serves 3 or 4.


2 lbs asparagus, tough ends trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
kosher salt and ground black pepper
8 oz wide flat pasta (tagliatelle, fettuccine or papardelle)
1 T salted butter
2 mdium garlic cloves, finely chopped (we pressed it)
2 medium shallots, halved and thinly sliced
1 c heavy cream (or 3/4 c half and half)
1/4 finely grated parmesan cheese (you can exaggerate here),
      plus more at the table
1 t grated lemon zest, with optional lemon wedge juice at the table


  1. Prep the shallots and garlic. Prep the asparagus. We snapped off the hard ends and quickly peeled the ends left.
  2. Chop them into 1 inch pieces (but reserve the tips for the final phase) and food process with 15 pulses.
  3. Chris says to measure out 1.5 c asparagus to set aside, but we just tossed in the whole deal when called for below.
  4. Get the pasta water boiling, and preboil those asparagus tips if you follow bob's suggestion. Fish out with a wire mesh and set aside.
  5. If you have really quick pasta like we did, you can cook the pasta al dente when appropriately timed. Then reserve  a cup of the pasta water for later.
  6. Meanwhile, in a nonstick skillet or pot, melt the butter over medium heat. We were all out of any butter so we used olive oil.
  7. Add the shallots and garlic and cook a few minutes till softened, stirring often, about 2 minutes.
  8. Add the cream (whatever) and reserved asparagus and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Stir often until a spatula "drawn through the mixture leaves a 2-second trail," 2 or 3 minutes. We actually were able to do this.
  9. Add the drained pasta, you can transfer directly from the pot with a wire mesh, pasta water is a welcome hitchhiker, and 1/4 c of the pasta water, and set the pan over medium heat again. Toss adding cooking water  1 T at a time as needed (judgement call). Remove from the heat and stir in the parmesan and 1/4 t salt.
  10. Stir in the lemon zest and season with salt and pepper.
  11. Serve with additional parmesan (we did) and lemon wedges (we forgot).


  1. Milk Street creamy asparagus pasta.
  2. America's Test Kitchen lived on beyond Chris, letting the ladies take the spotlight.
  3. Remember our fettuccine zuffredo? Another attempt to avoid the deadly "traditional" recipe, which in Italy is instead made with only butter and parmigiano and no cream.
  4. Illustrations available.
pastaasparagus.htm: 3-may-2023 [what, ME cook? © 1984 dr bob enterprises]