I love asparagus and am always looking for new ways to incorporate it into our meals. With the spring weather here a bit early (love that)... I figured what better to serve than a lovely dinner with fresh spring asparagus! That being said, I seem to be posting a bit of pasta today, but let me tell you this one is divine on a lovely spring evening! It is grown up enough to be served at a dinner party, intimate dinner for two and yet whimsical enough your kids will love it too.
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 lb bundle of fresh asparagus
1 box Pene Pasta
1 8 oz container of Mascarpone Cheese (or make your own)
1 1/2 or 2 Lemons
In a bowl big enough to hold all your chicken, add the zest of 1 lemon and the juice of 1/2 a lemon. Add a big pinch of salt, a pinch of freshly ground black pepper and a big drizzle of olive oil. Whisk together and drop in your chicken breasts. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes but the longer the better. I like doing it overnight or right after breakfast when everyone is out the door. In a little prep bowl, zest your other lemon and reserve the zest. In another bowl squeeze the juice of the lemon you just zested, add a nice pinch of salt and a light drizzle of olive oil and whisk together. Snap the woody bottoms of your asparagus off, and then cut your asparagus into about 3 nice even size chunks, place cut asparagus into the bowl with lemon juice, salt and olive oil. Toss to coat and set aside. This you can also do way ahead if you like. The longer it sits in that little marinade the better it will be.
When you are ready to cook. Get your pasta pot out and fill with water and add a nice big pinch of salt. When the water is boiling, add your pasta. Cook one minute less than the directions suggest.
Get out your grill pan or fire up your grill. Grill your chicken, make sure you sear and brown it well. I promise it is worth the effort to give it a nice brown crust. Once your chicken is cooked through, remove from grill and set aside to rest.
Then grill your asparagus so it is al dente with some nice grill marks.
Drain your pasta reserving some of your pasta water. Return pasta pan to stove top and reduce heat to medium low. Add Mascarpone cheese, add pasta and start to stir together while cheese melts. Add a sprinkle of salt and a little cracked black pepper. Sprinkle in about 1/2 of your reserved lemon zest and mix well.
If it seems a little dry, add a little of your reserved pasta water to loosen up a little. Sauce should coat pasta nicely but not be saucy. Reduce heat to low and add your asparagus and toss together. Slice your chicken breasts and begin to plate.
Put your portion of pasta with asparagus on the plate. Place sliced chicken on top, garnish with a little lemon zest and a sprig of parsley or mint if you want to be fancy! BUT mostly, just enjoy!