What You Need

1 Fresh lemon

1 lb. Dried penne pasta

1 lb. Fresh asparagus spears

4 tbsp. Olive oil

4 Chicken breasts; thin, boneless, skinless 


Freshly ground black pepper

1 c. Shredded Parmesan cheese, plus extra for topping

Lemon Pepper Asparagus Penne

What You Do

1.  Using a zester or fine grater, zest the entire lemon and set the zest aside.  Cut the lemon in half and squeeze all of the juice into a small bowl.  Remove and discard any seeds.

2.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat.  Add the penne pasta and cook according to package directions, until al dente.  Drain the pasta and return to the cooking pot, reserving about a half cup of the cooking water.

3.  While the past cooks, snap the tough ends off of the asparagus and discard.  Cut the spears into pieces about one inch long.

4.  Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet with a lid over medium heat.  Add the asparagus spears and carefully toss to coat in the oil.  Cook over medium heat, tossing occasionally, for about three minutes.  Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for about three minutes more.

5.  Remove the asparagus from the heat and add to the pot with the cooked penne pasta.  Toss the mixture with the lemon juice, lemon zest and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Cover to keep warm.

6.  Season both sides of the chicken breast with salt and pepper.  Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in the same large skillet you used for the asparagus.  Add the chicken to the skillet and cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes per side, until the chicken is lightly browned and no longer pink in the center.

7.  Transfer the chicken to a large cutting board and let rest for a minute or two.

8.  While the chicken rests, season the pasta with salt and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper and stir in the Parmesan cheese.

9.  Divide the pasta among four plates or wide, low bowls.  Cut the chicken breasts into strips against the grain and arrange in equal portions on top of the pasta.

10. Serve immediately with extra parmesan cheese for topping.

This is one of my go-to dinners in springtime.  I usually have pasta in my cabinet and some chicken in the freezer, kind of as staple ingredients.  Lemons are still on the scene from the winter fruit list and asparagus has finally showed up in large quantities, marking the approach of warmer weather.  Being the vegetable nut that I am, I get really excited about crisp, fresh asparagus.  This recipe showcases it beautifully by cooking lightly and pairing it with zesty lemon and pepper, which also give some pizzazz to the chicken and pasta staples.  (Yep; pizzazz.  I said it.)

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  Serves:  4

  Prep. Time:  5 minutes

  Cook Time: ​ 20 minutes

  Difficulty: ​ Easy