This is one of those pasta dishes that I love to throw together on a Spring weeknight when asparagus are in season. If you have a wok, it’s the best thing for this as... it cooks the veggies faster and with less oil, and gives you space to toss everything together with the pasta. Whatever pan you use, it is super quick, super delicious and a great way to cook asparagus. Once the veggies are prepped, the sauce take around 12-15 minutes tops to cook, so you can time the pasta to be ready at the time as the sauce finishes and is ready to have the pasta added to it to finish the dish.
Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta 1 minute less than packet instructions. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water and drain the pasta. Set both aside.
Meanwhile in a wok or large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over a medium high flame. When it ripples, add the garlic and chilies if using. Cook, stirring until the garlic starts to color, about 1 minute. Add pine nuts and a generous grind or three of black pepper. Cook 1 minute, then add the asparagus. Sprinkle with salt.
Cook stirring until the asparagus starts to soften, about 5 minutes. Add a ¼ cup of the reserved pasta water after 2 minutes to deglaze the pan and create steam to cook the asparagus faster. Add the peas and cook stirring until they turn bright green, about 1 minute. Add another ¼ cup of pasta water if the pan looks dry. Add the butter if using and the grated cheese. Cook stirring until they melt into the liquid at the bottom of the pan to form a light sauce. Add another tablespoon or 2 of pasta water if needed.
Add the chopped mint and parsley. Stir to mix. Add the arugula and cook stirring until it wilts, about 30 seconds. Add the cooked pasta to the pan and toss to mix with the vegetables and herbs. Cook 1 minute. Serve immediately with extra grated parmesan cheese.
As there are so many veggies in this pasta, I happen to like making it with wide ribbons of chewy pappardelle, but if you want to add more fiber to your meal, use whole wheat penne instead, cooked 1 minute less than packet instructions.
A portion of pasta is 2 ounces dry weight per person. Always measure it out!
A note about cooking pasta: Often the packet cooking times will say ‘10-12’ minutes or ‘5-7 minutes’ depending on the type of pasta. Unless you live at a high altitude, always cook your chosen pasta 1 minute less than the fastest given cooking time. This will ensure your pasta is always ‘al dente’. FYI – Regular white flour pasta cooked ‘al dente’ is lower on the glycemic index than when the same pasta is soft cooked.