Sacramento Digs Gardening logo
Sacramento Digs Gardening Article
Your resource for Sacramento-area gardening news, tips and events

Articles Recipe Index Keyword Index Calendar Twitter Facebook Instagram About Us Contact Us

Pasta dish features spring asparagus

Recipe: No-cook sauce includes ricotta and lemon

blue plate with pasta in a white sauce
This pasta recipe goes together quickly and makes a spectacular lunch dish.
(Photos: Kathy Morrison)

A pile of asparagus spears
That's a pound of spring right there, pre-trimming.

Go ahead, get more asparagus. It's the height of the season and there are plenty of ways to cook it.

This dish features asparagus that's on the thinner side, because it cooks quickly in the same water later used for the pasta. The sauce doesn't cook at all -- how easy is that?

I blended the sauce in my food processor, but you can use an immersion blender or even a hand mixer to get it nice and smooth. Versions of ricotta and pasta are all over the place, but this one -- adapted freely from a New York Times version -- has a nice bite, with red pepper flakes and lemon cutting through the richness of the sauce. Be sure to use whole-milk ricotta, however, for the best texture.

Not a fan of asparagus? Fresh peas would work just as well, and be equally spring-like.

Pasta with asparagus, ricotta and lemon

Serves 4


3/4 to 1 pound skinny spears of asparagus (or 1 cup of peas)

Kosher salt

1 pound dried short pasta, such as penne, gemelli or farfalle

1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest plus 1/4 cup lemon juice (from 1 or 2 lemons)

Freshly ground black pepper

1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste

Asparagus pieces in water
The skinny asparagus pieces cook quickly.


Bring a large pot (at least 4-quart size) of water to boil. Trim the asparagus spear ends, then cut the spears into 2- to 3-inch pieces. Add the asparagus to the water and cook just until tender -- this will go quickly, so don't walk away.

Lift the asparagus out of the water with tongs or a slotted spoon and set it in a colander to dry a bit, then put the asparagus in a bowl and set aside. Don't dump the water from the pot! Bring it back to a boil and add a touch of salt, then add the pasta. Cook pasta according to package directions to al dente. Save 1 cup of the pasta water, then drain the pasta.

Ricotta sauce in a food processor
The sauce is blended in a food processor.

While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce: In a food processor (or with another method noted above) blend together the ricotta, 1 cup of the Parmesan, the lemon zest and juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, and the red pepper flakes. Blend in 1/2 cup of the pasta water.

When the pasta is cooked and draining, pour the sauce into the still-warm pot. Add the pasta, stirring gently to blend, and the cooked asparagus pieces. Add a bit more pasta water as needed.

Serve immediately, topped with more Parmesan and freshly ground pepper.


0 comments have been posted.

Taste Summer! E-cookbook


Find our summer recipes here!

Newsletter Subscription

Sacramento Digs Gardening to your inbox.

Local News

Ad for California Local

Thanks to our sponsor!

Summer Strong ad for

Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Sept. 24:

This week our weather will be just right for fall gardening. What are you waiting for?

* Now is the time to plant for fall. The warm soil will get these veggies off to a fast start.

* Keep harvesting tomatoes, peppers, squash, melons and eggplant. Tomatoes may ripen faster off the vine and sitting on the kitchen counter.

* Compost annuals and vegetable crops that have finished producing.

* Cultivate and add compost to the soil to replenish its nutrients for fall and winter vegetables and flowers.

* Fertilize deciduous fruit trees.

* Plant onions, lettuce, peas, radishes, turnips, beets, carrots, bok choy, spinach and potatoes directly into the vegetable beds.

* Transplant cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower as well as lettuce seedlings.

* Sow seeds of California poppies, clarkia and African daisies.

* Transplant cool-weather annuals such as pansies, violas, fairy primroses, calendulas, stocks and snapdragons.

* Divide and replant bulbs, rhizomes and perennials. That includes bearded iris; if they haven’t bloomed in three years, it’s time to dig them up and divide their rhizomes.

* Dig up and divide daylilies as they complete their bloom cycle.

* Divide and transplant peonies that have become overcrowded. Replant with “eyes” about an inch below the soil surface.

* Late September is ideal for sowing a new lawn or re-seeding bare spots.

Taste Spring! E-cookbook


Find our spring recipes here!