When asparagus is in season, you betcha I’m going to find a way to eat it in every way possible! Though I crave the springy green veggie in a creamy pasta, like fettuccine alfredo, that’s obviously not so calorie- or heart-friendly. This recipe is my better-for-you answer to an asparagus-pasta combination. I’ve gone the pasta salad route since it’s more seasonal to be served with the warmer weather to come. You can use your favorite pasta pick; I’ve chosen an organic red lentil rotini here since it’s super healthy! Plus I wanted an option to serve to my gluten-free friends. But best of all, I’ve grilled the asparagus for that extra special smoky flavor and crave-worthiness! Enjoy this Meatless Monday-style delight as an anytime side or salad—or a light vegan lunch entrée.
Calories saved: 370
Why it’s better for you? Way more fiber; way, way, way less “bad” fat!
- 12 ounces dry organic red lentil rotini
- 1 pound bunch fresh asparagus, ends trimmed
- 1 large or 2 small shallots, peeled
- 1 large red serrano or jalapeño pepper
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 1/4 teaspoons sea salt, divided
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- Juice and zest of 1 lemon (3 tablespoons juice)
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted (optional)
- Prepare an outdoor or indoor grill.
- Meanwhile, prepare the pasta according to package directions* in (salted) water, about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta, toss with ice cubes until cool, then drain again. Toss the cooled, drained pasta with 1 1/2 teaspoons of the oil and chill in the refrigerator in a large serving bowl.
- Place the asparagus, shallot, and pepper into a 9- x 13-inch pan or dish. Drizzle with 1 1/2 teaspoons of the oil and toss to lightly coat. Grill over direct medium-high heat until charred as desired, about 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer asparagus, shallot, and pepper back to the pan, sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and the minced garlic, and toss to coat.
- Slice the asparagus into 1 1/2-inch pieces on the diagonal; thinly slice the shallot; and extra-thinly slice or mince the pepper.
- Whisk together the lemon juice and zest and remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil in a liquid measuring cup.
- Add the grilled asparagus, shallots and pepper and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt to the pasta and toss to combine. When ready to serve, add the lemon vinaigrette and toss to combine. Sprinkle with the pine nuts (if using) and serve.
Per serving: 300 calories, 10g total fat, 1.5g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 500mg sodium, 39g total carbohydrate, 8g dietary fiber, 2g sugars, 15g protein (NOTE: 320 calories with pine nuts)
*HINT: Try my eco-friendlier “lid cooking” method: Bring water to a boil; stir in pasta; bring back to boil; cover and turn off (or remove from) heat and let “lid cook” per time suggested on package directions.
The “Before” Version
Compare to Fettuccine Alfredo with Asparagus
Per serving: 670 calories 38g total fat, 23g saturated fat, 1g trans fat, 120mg cholesterol, 800mg sodium, 69g total carbohydrate, 4g dietary fiber, 6g sugars, 17g protein
- Pick a tasty pasta. Generally, the healthier the pasta, the more flavorful it is … like red lentil rotini pasta!
- For an added layer of flavor, grill vegetables until at least slightly charred. “Smoky” is a flavor!
- Punch up the “heat” in a healthful pasta dish to give it more oomph. A hint is all you need; it shouldn’t make you sweat!