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Farfalle with Asparagus, Toasted Almonds, and Browned Butter

Well aware that most vegetarian pasta recipes feature a flavorless, boring pile of starch, randomly studded with bland vegetables and topped with a mound of low-quality grated cheese, we set out to develop a vegetarian pasta recipe with big and intense flavors that would also be easy to make.

The keys to our best vegetarian pasta recipe turned out to be sautéing asparagus and other vegetables to deepen their flavors and using restraint with a balance of salty, sweet, and sour ingredients in order to let the asparagus flavor shine.

1 tablespoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 pound farfalle
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound asparagus , bottom 1 inch trimmed and discarded, spears halved lengthwise if larger than 1/2 inch in diameter and cut into 1-inch lengths
3 large cloves garlic , sliced thin
2 medium shallots , sliced into thin rings
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
6 tablespoons unsalted butter , cut into 6 pieces
1 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh thyme , chopped
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese


1. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in stockpot. Add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta, stir to separate, and cook until al dente. Drain and return to pot.

2. While pasta is cooking, heat oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until beginning to smoke. Add asparagus and cook, without stirring, until beginning to brown, about 1 minute. Add garlic, shallots, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until asparagus is tender-crisp, about 4 minutes; transfer asparagus mixture to large plate and set aside. Return skillet to high heat and add butter; when foaming subsides, add almonds and cook, stirring constantly, until almonds are toasted and browned and butter is nutty and fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Off heat, add vinegar and thyme; return asparagus to skillet and toss to coat. Add asparagus mixture and 1/2 cup Parmesan to pasta in stockpot; toss to combine. Serve immediately, passing remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan separately.