I am going to sound like Oprah when I say this, but I LOVE lemon. I love lemon! I would have lemon Every. Single. Day. There is something about lemon zest that can bring freshness and life to most any dish, and as the weather begins to warm, I find myself craving it more and more. That said, this lemon asparagus pasta takes lemony to a whole other level. This is lemon times a thousand. This isn’t “lemon pasta” where you squeeze a tiny teaspoon of lemon juice over the asparagus and call it a day. Oh no. This recipe starts with a creamy roux and we build on it with lemon juice and zest for maximum lemon punch.
Preparing Lemon Asparagus Pasta
“It’s not LEMON pasta if the sauce has no lemon. Who just bakes the vegetables with sliced lemon over top? That’s not lemony!”
Ah, another small food treatise, brought to you by my mother. And might I add, I agree completely. My family home has…shall we say, some very strong opinions about food? It cannot be helped. Food is our native language.
We do not skimp on lemon in this house, and it really pays off in this recipe. Is there anything that says “springtime” more than a dish doused in fresh lemon?
I didn’t think so. So, let’s get started.
First, prepare the pasta of your choice. I like rotini because of how it really holds onto sauce in all of it’s little divots and nooks and crannies. The more sauce per bite, the better.
“You want everything to be covered in sauce. Not to float. Not to swim. Just good coverage. More, I think, is better than less.” Well said, Momma. Well said.
Making The Lemony Cream Sauce
Similar to my Aglio e Olio recipe, this recipe begins with cooking garlic in oil until fragrant. But unlike aglio e olio, where we used freshly minced garlic, here we will use garlic powder. You can use either, but I prefer this cream sauce to be as smooth as possible, so I cook garlic powder in oil over low-medium heat until it is fragrant. This does not take more than a minute or two.
From here, we prepare a roux. Simply put, a roux is a mixture of equal parts flour and oil, cooked over low heat. The roux is the bad boy that is going to thicken our sauce for us. Once the garlic is fragrant and making your kitchen smell like utter bliss, add in your flour and stir, stir, stir! Really get into that flour to break up any big clumps and stir the roux until it is smooth.
Stir the roux occasionally while cooking, but do not let it brown! This leads to brown cream sauce, and that isn’t what anybody wants. We are not making gravy here, people.
After your roux has cooked for several minutes (but again, not browned), begin to add in the nondairy milk, a half cup at a time.
Important Note: Do not add more milk until the previous half cup has been fully incorporated and the sauce begins to thicken slightly. Then add in the next half cup, and so on until all the milk has been incorporated. This will lead to a creamy sauce with no floury lumps.
A Quick Note On Roasting Asparagus
While our cream sauce is thickening, prepare the asparagus. I prefer to roast my vegetables at a high temperature for a short period of time. In my opinion, it yields caramelized vegetables that do not overcook and turn to mush.
Toss your asparagus in a small amount of oil and a pinch of salt before roasting in a 475 degree oven for five minutes. Flip the asparagus and then cook for another 3-5 minutes. Voila!
Once the asparagus has cooled slightly, chop it into 2-3 inch pieces. I prefer my asparagus bite sized so I can get a nice forkful with the pasta.
Assembling The Lemon Asparagus Pasta
Add drained pasta and chopped asparagus to the pan with the cream sauce and mix everything until it is creamy and heavenly and you are dizzy with the scent of lemons in spring. You are suddenly envisioning an evening out on a patio and a glass of white wine has appeared in your hand. Divine.
Spoon into bowls and serve. Wine is optional, of course, but strongly recommended.
Vegan, Creamy, Lemon & Asparagus Pasta
- Large pot (for cooking pasta)
- Sauté pan
- Large baking sheet
- Parchment paper (or silicone baking mat)
- ½-1 pound pasta of your choice
- 3 tablespoons olive oil extra virgin
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 3 tablespoons flour all-purpose
- 2 cups nondairy milk unsweetened (I highly reccommend soymilk)
- 1 small lemon juice and zest set aside
- 1 bunch asparagus ends snapped off
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- white pepper to taste
- red pepper flake to taste, optional
Prepare The Pasta
- While the asparagus is roasting, bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt with 2 tablespoons of kosher salt.
- Prepare the pasta according to the package instructions.
- When the pasta is cooked, drain and set aside.
Prepare Lemon Cream Sauce
- In a sauté pan, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over low-medium heat.
- Once the oil is warm, add the garlic powder and cook until fragrant, approximately 1-2 minutes.
- Add all three tablespoons of flour to the oil and stir until the flour is incorporated. The mixture will become thick. Continue to cook for several minutes, but do not allow the roux mixture to become brown.
- Add nondairy milk to the roux, half a cup at a time. Do not add the next half cup of milk until the previous half cup is fully incorporated. How to incorporate the nondairy milk: When you add in a half cup, stir constantly to allow the milk and roux to fully incorporate. When the mixture starts to thicken, add the next half cup. Continue this until the entire two cups have been added.
- Once the sauce has thickened, add the lemon juice and zest. Stir to incorporate.
- Add salt and white pepper, to taste.
Prepare The Asparagus
- Preheat your oven to 475°
- Toss asparagus lightly in 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil and sprinkle with salt, to taste.
- Place the asparagus on a parchment lined baking sheet and cook for five minutes on one side. Flip the asparagus, and then continue to cook for an additional 3-5 minutes until the asparagus is fork tender.
Assemble The Pasta
- Chop the asparagus into 2-3" pieces and add to the cream sauce, along with the pasta.
- Serve the pasta in indivual bowls and sprinkle with red pepper flakes, if desired.
This pasta will last for up to three days in the refrigerator and makes amazing next-day, lunchtime leftovers! Try it and let me know what you think in the comments below!