Fresh asparagus is at its best in the spring –and there is something amazing about the pairing of asparagus and pasta with a lemon cream sauce. This dish might sound complicated but with a few shortcuts it’s on the table in no time.
I’ll admit when I had mapped this out for dinner my intention was to make the tortellini from scratch and roast a chicken. But my day much like my week had not gone according to plan. So by late morning I realized this was perhaps a bit ambitious and plan B was in order. Luckily, there are a number of fresh pasta options in most food markets. So after a quick trip to the market to load up on pasta, a roasted chicken, some fresh asparagus and lemons I had dinner back on track.
Some tips to highlight a few of the key ingredients. Start by roasting the asparagus – cooking time is about ten minutes and the flavor achieved by roasting versus boiling or steaming is quite remarkable.
For the cheese, I use Sartori’s Tuscan Blend- it’s a beautiful duo of high-quality Parmesan and Fontina, shaved and perfect for cooking or garnishing. My choice for filled pasta is Buitoni’s, usually found in the deli area with fresh cheese and meats. Their Three Cheese Tortellini is a wonderful pasta for this recipe and also great to keep in your freezer for last minute meals. And always, always use fresh lemons. The fresh zest and juice provide the right balance for the delicate sauce.
The result is a creamy lemon sauce with bright notes of citrus gently coating roasted asparagus, chicken and cheese-filled tortellini. Beautiful. Elegant. Easy.
Tortellini with Asparagus, Chicken and Lemon Cream Sauce
1 pound fresh asparagus
2 tablespoons olive oil
1-¼ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper, divided
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 baby Portobello mushrooms, sliced, about 1-1/2 cups (8-ounce package)
1 small shallot, thinly sliced, about 1-1/2 tablespoons
2 -1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, one small lemon
2 teaspoons lemon zest, about 2 lemons
3 cups heavy cream
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ cup shaved or grated cheese, preferably a blend of Parmesan and Fontina, plus extra for garnish
1 large package cheese-filled tortellini, 20-ounces
2 cups chopped roasted chicken breast
2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley, plus extra for garnish
Rinse the asparagus and snap the tough ends off the bottoms of the stalks.
Spread the stalks out in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper. Drizzle the olive oil over the asparagus and sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper.
Roast at 400-degrees for 10 minutes until the asparagus is tender crisp. The point of a sharp knife should easily pierce the stalk. If the stalks are very thin or thick just adjust the cooking time a few minutes. When the asparagus is cool enough to handle cut it into 1”-2” pieces.
In a large, deep saucepan melt the butter over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and the shallots and sauté until the mushrooms are golden and the shallots are translucent, about 8-10 minutes.
Add the lemon juice and the lemon zest, the cream, the remaining 1 teaspoon of the kosher salt, ¼ teaspoon black pepper and the nutmeg.
Continue cooking the sauce over medium heat for about five minutes or until the cream has thickened – then reduce the heat to low. Don’t let the cream boil or it will curdle. Cook the tortellini in a large stockpot full of gently boiling, heavily salted water until it is just tender, about 7 minutes. Add the cooked tortellini to the cream sauce along with the chicken, the asparagus, the cheese and the parsley. Stir to cover thoroughly with the cream sauce.
Serve with extra cheese and a sprinkling of parsley.