There is something about a pasta dish that just sings comfort. Kids love it, adults love it, it’s quick, it’s easy, it satisfies & it sustains.
But it’s also the most incredible backdrop for a whole host of veggie & flavour laden things to take hold. So sorry classic tomato but there’s a new seasonal spring chicken in town & it’s here to sweep the limelight rug firmly out from under your feet!
I personally find organic brown rice penne the perfect partner but should you be more of a wholewheat spaghetti or spelt fusilli kind of family then by all means pick your preferred pasta & run with it. You can also replace the asparagus for a head of broccoli should you wish to make this at other times of the year.
Add your nuts to a bowl or jug, pour over 4 cups of boiling water & leave to soak for at least 30 minutes covered with a lid. The longer you leave them the creamier your finished sauce, especially if you will be using a food processor rather than a high speed blender. If leaving for longer than 4 hours then use cold water, they can then be left to soak for 8-12 hours but pop them in the fridge.
When you are ready to make your sauce trim the tough bottom ½ cm of stalk from your asparagus & discard these, then separate the delicate tips (top ~6cm) from the remaining stalks.
Pop a pan of water onto boil & once bubbling drop in the stalks, cook for 2 minutes then drain & run under cold water to stop them cooking further. If using broccoli separate stem from florets & add the chopped stem to the pan for 30 seconds before the tops, cook for a total of 3 minutes.
Drain & rinse your nuts, add them to a high speed blender with the asparagus stalks (or broccoli), peeled garlic, nutritional yeast, salt, pepper & juice of ½ the lemon (don’t throw away the lemon rind!). Blend until silky & smooth, test the seasoning & adjust if necessary.
Put your pasta onto cook as per packet instructions. Whilst that cooks away cut your mushrooms into chunky slices & add to a sauté pan with 1 teaspoon of your chosen oil & a pinch of salt, cook on a medium heat, tossing occasionally for 3-4 minutes until they start to release their liquid & turn lightly golden. Then add the asparagus tips for 2 minutes to warm through.
Juice the other ½ of your lemon then very finely slice the lemon peel/pith into pieces, if there are scraps of lemon flesh left keep these too! (You’ll probably need ½ – ¾ of the lemon’s worth)
Drain your pasta, add back to the warm pan with the watercress, mushrooms, asparagus tips, lemon rind pieces & stir through your sauce. Serve with a sprinkle of chilli flakes & a final drizzle of lemon juice over the top.
The sauce can be prepared 2-3 days in advance or frozen for up to 3 months. Any leftover pasta is delicious cold or lightly reheated too for 2 days after too.