Garlicky Parsley Pesto Pasta

  • 2 packed cups flat-leaf parsley, stems removed
  • 2 cups ramps, green garlic, or a mixture of 4 cloves garlic and the green parts of 4 scallions or spring onions
  • 1⁄2 cup walnuts
  • 2 tbsp. lemon zest (from one lemon)
  • 1⁄4 lemon juice (from one lemon)
  • 1⁄4 Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 4 tbsp. olive oil, separated
  • Salt and fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1 bunch thin asparagus
  • 1 lb. dried thin spaghetti or cappellini

Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, in the bowl of a large mortar, toss parsley, ramps or green garlic, and walnuts; mash into a rough paste. (Alternatively you can use a blender or food processor, but the act of smashing seems to result in a more intense flavor.) Add lemon zest, lemon juice, cheese, 2 tbs olive oil, salt, and pepper to the pesto mixture and mash to incorporate, tasting and adding more olive oil and seasoning, as necessary. Once the pesto is to your taste, set it aside. Once the water is boiling, add pasta and cook until al dente, about 2 minutes less than package directions. While the pasta is cooking, prepare the asparagus: trim and discard any woody ends. Thinly slice the asparagus lengthwise, so it mimics the pasta in shape. A minute before the pasta is done, add the sliced asparagus to the boiling water. After a minute, drain the pasta and asparagus, reserving a few tablespoons of the cooking water. Return the pasta and asparagus to the pot and toss with reserved pesto. Serve topped with a few grinds of black pepper and additional grated Parmesan.

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