Asparagus and Lemon Pasta in a light, garlicky cream sauce topped with crispy lemon-basil Panko. A spring-forward, simple pasta dish bursting with bright flavor that’s ready in just 30 minutes.
Why You’ll Love this Asparagus and Lemon Pasta
I love that this pasta feels super light, yet is full of flavor. Garlic and leeks form the aromatic foundation, which get simmered in a creamy white wine sauce with bright notes of lemon and basil. Parmesan lends a nutty, salty tang which compliments the cream sauce beautifully.
To amp up the protein, seared shrimp or scallops would be a wonderful addition. Alternatively, you can toss in some shredded rotisserie chicken or top with crispy chickpeas.
This recipe can easily be made gluten free by using chickpea or brown rice pasta. Serve it with a simple side salad and homemade garlic bread for the ultimate weeknight meal.
Recipe Ingredients and Substitutions:
- Asparagus: Packed with vitamins and immune-supportive antioxidants, this versatile veggie has many health benefits. It’s also one of spring’s brightest stars, and one I look forward to cooking with every year.
- Leeks: Boasting sweet, oniony flavor, leeks are also a springtime favorite. If you can’t find leeks, you can swap them for sweet onion or shallots.
- Peas: Green peas add a pop of color and burst of sweetness to the pasta. If using frozen, you don’t have to completely thaw them, however they should be partially thawed before adding to the pasta water. You can also leave them out, if you’re not a fan.
- Garlic: What’s a pasta dish WITHOUT garlic? This one has plenty, which adds aromatic goodness to the lemony cream sauce.
- White wine: A dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc, Albarino, or Pinot Grigio works best. Alternatively, use a mix of chicken or vegetable broth with a splash of white wine vinegar.
- Heavy Cream: A little heavy cream goes a long way in this pasta dish. For a dairy free alternative, use cashew cream or canned coconut milk.
- Lemon: You need the zest and juice of 1 whole lemon for this recipe. The zest is added to the panko topping, while the juice helps brighten the sauce.
- Pasta: Use any pasta shape you like! For a gluten free/higher protein alternative, use Banza Chickpea Pasta or Tolerant Red Lentil Pasta.
- Parmesan: Parmesan cheese adds nutty, salty depth of flavor to the Asparagus and Lemon Pasta. Alternatively, you can also use Pecorino Romano here.
- Panko: For a gluten free alternative, use Ian’s Gluten Free Panko or crushed Rice Chex cereal.
- Basil: Basil or chopped parsley adds a pop of freshness.
Step 1: Cook Pasta and Green Peas
Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. During the final minute, add green peas to pot. Drain, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid.
Step 2: Prepare Lemon-Basil Breadcrumbs
Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil and 1 Tbsp. butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Once melted, add breadcrumbs and cook until golden-brown and toasted, stirring often, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and stir in lemon zest and basil.
Step 3: Sauté Asparagus, Leeks, and Garlic
Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Once hot, add asparagus and leeks; cook 5 minutes, until just tender. Next, add garlic and red pepper flakes; cook 1 minute, until fragrant.
Step 4: Add Wine, Heavy Cream, and Lemon Juice
Add white wine (or broth) to pan and gently simmer until reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, and stir in heavy cream, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
Step 5: Combine Pasta and Sauce
Add cooked pasta to asparagus mixture, along with 1/2 cup reserved pasta cooking water. Stir continuously, until sauce starts to thicken and cling to noodles. Stir in Parmesan cheese, and add additional pasta cooking water as needed to thin sauce to desired consistency.
Spoon Asparagus and Lemon Pasta into bowls and scatter lemon-basil breadcrumbs overtop, along with extra fresh basil or parsley, if desired.
What to Serve with Asparagus and Lemon Pasta:
To round out the meal, you can serve it with:
- Crusty Bread: For mopping up any extra garlic-butter sauce.
- A Crisp, Green Salad: Try this Shaved Brussels and Pear Salad for a burst of freshness and crunch.
- Protein: Add sautéed shrimp or scallops, shredded rotisserie chicken, or my Chickpea Meatballs for a punch of protein.
How to Store and Reheat:
- To Store: Place leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 4 days.
- To Reheat: Reheat individual portions in the microwave, stopping to stir every 30 seconds, until warmed through. Alternatively, reheat in a skillet over medium heat, adding a splash of broth as needed, until warm.
More Vegetarian Pasta Recipes to Try:
If you give this recipe a try, snap a pic and tag #dishingouthealth on Instagram so I can see your beautiful creations. I also really appreciate readers taking the time to leave a rating and review! Lastly, follow along on Facebook and Pinterest for the latest recipe updates.
30 Minute Asparagus and Lemon Pasta
- Large stockpot or Dutch oven
- Large skillet
- 12 oz. dry pasta of choice (use chickpea or lentil pasta for extra protein)
- 2/3 cup fresh or frozen/partially thawed green peas
- 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lb. asparagus trimmed, and sliced at a diagonal into 2" –3" pieces
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced leeks (from 1 large or 2 small leeks) (white and pale green parts only)
- 4 minced garlic cloves
- 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup dry white wine (such as Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc) sub 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth mixed with a splash of white wine vinegar
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
- 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
- 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 Tbsp. salted butter
- 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs (unseasoned)
- 1 tsp. lemon zest
- 2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish
- Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. During the final minute, add green peas to pot. Drain, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid.
- While pasta cooks, prepare Lemon-Basil Breadcrumbs. Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil and 1 Tbsp. butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Once melted, add breadcrumbs and cook until deep golden-brown and toasted, stirring often, about 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and stir in lemon zest and basil. Set aside.
- Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Once hot, add asparagus and leeks; cook 5 minutes, stirring often, until just tender. Add garlic and red pepper flakes; cook 1 minute, until fragrant.Add white wine (or broth) to pan and gently simmer until reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, and stir in heavy cream, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
- Add cooked pasta to asparagus mixture, along with 1/2 cup reserved pasta cooking liquid. Stir continuously, until sauce starts to thicken and cling to noodles. Stir in Parmesan cheese, and add additional pasta cooking water as needed to thin sauce to desired consistency. (I always end up using the full 1 cup.)Spoon pasta into bowls and scatter lemon-basil breadcrumbs over top, along with extra basil, if desired.