Baked Fettuccine and Asparagus with Lemon, Pine Nuts and Mascarpone

Really delicious — not difficult to make. Trisha

Serves 4

2 T. olive oil; more for the pan
2 lb. medium-thick asparagus, ends trimmed, cut in 1” pieces on an angle
8 scallions (whites and pale green parts), cut in thin rounds
Finely grated zest from 2 lemons
Juice from 1 large lemon (about ¼ cup)
A few sprigs fresh thyme or savory, leaves chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 T. unsalted butter
1 T. all-purpose flour
1 c. whole milk
1 c. mascarpone
1 c. grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano
Generous pinch ground allspice
Small pinch cayenne
¾ c. fresh breadcrumbs
1 lb. fresh fettuccine
½ c. pine nuts, lightly toasted

Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Lightly coat a 9 x 13” (3 qt.) shallow baking dish or four individual baking dishes (about 2 cup capacity each) with olive oil.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the asparagus and blanch until tender but with a slight bite, about 2 minutes. Scoop it from the water and run it under cold water to stop its cooking. Drain well. Keep the water boiling for the pasta.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the scallions; sauté 1 minute to soften. Add the asparagus and sauté briefly, about 1 minute. Take the skillet off the heat and add half the zest, the lemon juice, thyme, salt, and pepper;’ mix well.

In a medium saucepan, heat the butter and flour over medium heat, whisking until smooth. Cook for 1 minute, whisking constantly, to cook away the raw taste of the flour. Add the milk and cook, whisking all the while, until it comes to a boil. Lower the heat a bit and cook until smooth and lightly thickened (about the consistency of heavy cream), 3 to 4 minutes.

Turn off the heat and add the mascarpone, the remaining lemon zest, and ½ cup of the Grana Padano or Parmigiano, whisking until the mixture is fairly smooth. Season with the allspice, cayenne, salt and pepper.

Ina small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs and the remaining cheese. Season with salt and pepper and add a drizzle of live oil. Mix well.
Return the cooking water to a full boil and cook the fettuccine, leaving it slightly underdone. Drain well. Return the fettuccine to the cooking pot. Add the mascarpone sauce, the pine nuts, and the asparagus with all it juices. Toss and taste for seasoning. Pour into the baking dish and sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture evenly over the top. Bake uncovered until bubbling and golden. Serve immediately.

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