Penne with Asparagus and Lemon

The citrus notes of the Cubeb Peppercorns complement the lemon flavors in dish. Do not be afraid of adding the lemon juice directly to the cream. Stir the sauce continuously as you slowly pour it in and it will not curdle. Serve with a light chicken, turkey scallopini, or fish dish. Or serve as a main dish with a salad of greens. This is a good recipe for thin asparagus. 

1 pound asparagus, small/thin to medium size stalks
Grey sea salt, fine grain
½ pound penne pasta 
1 tablespoon unsalted butter 
2 large garlic cloves, minced 
1 cup heavy cream 
¼ cup fresh lemon juice 
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley 
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest 
Cubeb peppercorns, ground (Comet's Tail)

Trim the asparagus by snapping off the ends (they will break naturally where the tender and tough parts meet). There is no need to peel the stalks. Cut the asparagus into thirds on an angle; there should be about 4 cups. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon sea salt and the penne, stirring. Cook, stirring often, until it is tender yet firm and offers some resistance, 8 to 12 minutes. Scoop out 1/2 cup of the cooking water and set aside. Drain the pasta.

While the pasta cooks, make the sauce. Melt the butter over low heat in a large nonreactive skillet. Add the garlic and stir to coat with the butter. Immediately add the asparagus and toss for 1 minute. Add the cream, raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Boil for 3 minutes, or until asparagus is crisp-tender and cream has reduced. Remove from the heat. Slowly pour in the lemon juice, stirring constantly. Add the parsley, lemon zest, ¼ teaspoon sea salt and some pepper to taste; stir. When the pasta is done, drain well and add to the asparagus mixture. Stir well to mix the asparagus with the pasta. Taste, add more sea salt and pepper, as you like, and serve right away. The pasta will continue to absorb the sauce so best to enjoy as soon as all is mixed together. If you think there is not enough sauce or the sauce is a touch too thick, stir in some of the reserved pasta cooking water.

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