Photos by Emily Caruso
Asparagus and corn have a lot of things in common. Every spring, I most look forward to asparagus being in season; every summer, I most look forward to fresh corn-on-the-cob. At the end of spring, I always lament the fact that I didn't eat nearly enough asparagus; when fall rolls around, I feel the same way about corn. And like corn, asparagus is best when it's just barely cooked. Overcooked asparagus is mushy and brownish green and it's wrong! So, so wrong. Please don't overcook your asparagus.
This easy pasta dinner is the best way to enjoy fresh spring asparagus. The asparagus gets steamed for 2-3 minutes in a skillet—and that's it. That's all it needs! It will continue cooking a little bit after you add the olive oil, garlic and pasta to the pan, but not to the point of being limp and mushy.
Keeping with the whole less-is-more theme, instead of pairing the pasta with a sauce, the linguine is tossed with olive oil and lemon juice. Lemon zest adds even more of a lemony punch, and grated parmesan cheese and fresh basil amp up the flavor even more. And then there's the garlicky panko! It's a simple way to dress up pastas, casseroles and veggie sides—it's crispy, it's delicious and it only takes a few minutes to make. It's kind of my secret weapon in the kitchen.
Once asparagus isn't in season anymore, this recipe can be easily adapted to use other seasonal ingredients. Just remember, some vegetables, like green beans, will work with this steaming method, while others will benefit from a quick sauté instead—zucchini, corn and eggplant, for example.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil divided
- 2 cloves garlic divided
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 8 ounces dry linguine cooked until just al dente (according to package instructions)
- 1 pound asparagus trimmed and cut into 1 to 1 ½-inch pieces
- Zest from 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
- Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1 clove of garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the panko and cook, stirring constantly, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a small bowl. Wipe the skillet with a paper towel to remove any remaining breadcrumbs.
- About 3 minutes before the pasta is finished cooking, heat 2 tablespoons of water in the skillet, over medium heat. Once it's steaming, add the asparagus and cover. Steam for 2-3 minutes, until crisp-tender.
- Add the remaining olive oil and garlic to the skillet and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in the linguine and toss to coat. Remove from heat and add the lemon zest, juice, cheese and basil; toss again to distribute the ingredients evenly. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then divide onto plates. Top each serving with 2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs.