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Fettuccine with asparagus and lemon cream sauce

(Catherine Smart for The Boston Globe)
May 9, 2012
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Serves 4

Fresh asparagus is the star in this simple springtime pasta. When the fettucine is almost cooked, drop in the asparagus and drain the two together. Meanwhile, cook shallots in a little butter with cream, lemon rind and juice, Parmesan, and plenty of black pepper. The dish is easy enough for a weeknight, elegant enough for a dinner party.

Salt and pepper, to taste
1pound dried fettuccine
2bunches fresh asparagus, ends snapped, stalks cut into 1-inch pieces
4tablespoons butter
4shallots, chopped
½cup heavy cream
Grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
1cup grated Parmesan cheese
Extra grated Parmesan (for serving)

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the fettuccine. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the asparagus and cook 2 minutes more, or until asparagus and pasta are tender, but still have some bite. Dip a heatproof measuring cup into the pasta water and remove 1 cup. Drain the pasta mixture into a colander, and return to the pot.

2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the shallots and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Add the cream, lemon rind and juice, 1 cup Parmesan, ½ cup pasta cooking water, salt, and pepper.

3. Pour the sauce over the pasta mixture, and cook, tossing gently, for 2 minutes or until the mixture is hot. Add more pasta cooking water, 2 tablespoons at a time, to make a saucier dish. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if you like. Divide among 4 deep bowls and sprinkle with Parmesan. Catherine Smart

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