This spring is the first time I came to truly appreciate asparagus. I’ve made some great dishes with it before, but I think this risotto is what officially converted me. When I saw this recipe on the cover of Bon Appétit for May, I mentally filed it as “need to make – soon!” So, I did. And you know what? It was a lot like the spring green risotto, except as with pasta instead of rice and the addition of bacon. The flavors are remarkably similar, which I consider a very good thing because I’m just a little bit in love with the risotto. I can just imagine how much better it would have been with fresh peas from the farmers’ market, and you better believe I’ll be making it again just as soon as I can find them.
12 oz. pasta, such as fettuccine
3 oz. pancetta or bacon, chopped
1 lb. asparagus, trimmed and cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces
2 cups shelled fresh peas (blanched 1 minute), or frozen peas
1 bunch green onions, sliced thinly, white and green parts separated
2 cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed
½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp. lemon zest
2-4 tbsp. fresh parsely, minced and divided
¼ cup fresh basil, minced and divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the pasta just until al dente according to the package directions. Drain, reserving ½ cup of the pasta water. Return the pasta to the pot.
Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the pancetta or bacon just until crisp, and transfer to a paper-towel lined plate using a slotted spoon. Pour off almost all of the grease from the pan. Return the pan to the heat and add the asparagus. Sauté for 3 minutes. Add the peas, white parts of the green onions, and garlic to the pan; sauté until fragrant and just tender, about 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
Transfer the vegetable mixture, ¼ cup of the reserved pasta water, green parts of the green onions, Parmesan cheese, cream, olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, half of the parsley and basil to the pot with the cooked pasta. Toss well until combine. Add additional pasta water a tablespoon at a time, if necessary. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Transfer to a large serving bowl. Sprinkle with the pancetta, remaining parsley and basil. Serve immediately with additional grated Parmesan, if desired.