As soon as the first asparagus spears start poking through the soil I'm thinking how to showcase it. This recipe is full of asparagus flavor as it is used to make the sauce and as ribbons that meld with the pasta.
Adapted from Joanne Weir.
2 pounds fresh asparagus
2 cups homemade chicken stock
1 cup crème fraiche
1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup finely grated Parmesan
Pinch of Saffron Threads
1/2 teaspoon Fennel Pollen
1 pound fresh homemade fettuccine
Break off woody lower portions of asparagus and discard. Cut the 2-inches of the tips off the asparagus cutting diagonally into ½-inch pieces. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and boil the asparagus until almost tender and bright green, 2 minutes. Drain and cool immediately.
With the remaining asparagus spears, shave as much of the asparagus as you can with a vegetable peeler and reserve the shavings in a bowl. With the remaining centers of the asparagus, cut them coarsely and place them in a saucepan with the chicken stock. Place over medium heat and simmer until the asparagus is very tender and pale colored and 1 cup of the chicken stock remains, 25 to 30 minutes.
In a small bowl, combine the crème fraiche, lemon zest, lemon juice, fennel and saffron and season with salt. Reserve.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, 2 to 4 minutes. Drain immediately and place in a large bowl. Add the shaved asparagus, cooked asparagus tips, chicken stock and a handful of the Parmigiano. Toss together.
Serve immediately garnished with a sprinkling of the Parmigiano and a dollop of the crème fraiche. Serve the remaining Parmigiano separately at the table.