The transition from Winter to Spring is my favorite of all the seasons. It’s so exhilarating to see the cold and gray turn to warm and green. The warmer weather means it’s nearly time to plant more crops, and that we’ll soon see green and colorful vegetables again at the local markets. Asparagus is one of my favorite spring vegetables, and I am constantly trying to find new ways to incorporate it into meals. Asparagus is extremely versatile, and I like it simply roasted, shaved in salads, or chopped into frittatas and pastas.
Growing asparagus is a labor of love, so I feel like each spear deserves to be used intentionally. Asparagus reminds me of the promise of spring—both take time and a bit patience. It takes a couple of years for the asparagus to get started, but once it starts, it can come back each year and produce for 10-20 years. Plants like this teach me the importance of patience, hard work, and living in the moment.
I can recall many lazy Sundays at my parents’ home, eating lunch or dinner on the patio, and playing with the dogs while my dad plotted out his spring garden. The warmer days outside with my family and the promise of Spring asparagus conjured up thoughts of a pasta dish with Spring vegetables that could be eaten hot or cold. For this dish, I used asparagus and broccoli, but it would also be lovely with peas, greens, and zucchini if you are making it later in the Summer. My parents have large pots of fresh herbs every Spring and Summer, so there’s no shortage of parsley, basil, cilantro, rosemary, and sage. I use parsley and basil here, but feel free to mix up the herbs used. If you’re a vegetarian, just omit the chicken, and consider a lentil or bean pasta to get some more protein in. I used gluten-free fusilli pasta for this dish, but feel free to use your favorite pasta or whatever you have on hand.
Italian Spring Vegetable and Chicken Pasta
- 1 lb. Boneless/Skinless Chicken Breasts, trimmed
- 4 cloves Garlic, minced
- ½ tsp. Onion Powder
- ½ tsp. Dried Oregano
- 1+ tsp. Salt
- ¼ tsp. Black Pepper
- 6 Tbsp. Olive Oil
- Broth or Water (if needed)
- 2 bunches Broccoli, cut into small florets (about 2-3 cups)
- 1 bunch Asparagus, tough ends trimmed
- Juice from ½ Lemon (plus additional lemon for garnish)
- ¼ cup Fresh Parsley, chopped
- ¼ cup Fresh Basil, chopped
- Lay the chicken breasts between two pieces of parchment paper, and pound with a meat mallet just until the chicken begins to flatten slightly. This step is optional, but really helps to tenderize the chicken. Chop the chicken breasts into 1 inch pieces and season with ½ teaspoon of salt, black pepper, oregano, and onion powder.
- Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large stainless skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of the garlic and swirl in the olive oil until just fragrant. Lay the chicken in a single layer and allow them to brown on each side for 1-2 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.
- In the same pan, heat an additional two tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, add the rest of the garlic and then the broccoli. Sauté the broccoli in the pan to mix the garlic and broccoli together and reduce the heat down to medium low. If the pan is too dry and browning too much, add the broth or liquid, two tablespoons at a time.
- While the broccoli is cooking, boil a pot of water over medium high heat with a few dashes of salt. Once boiling, add the pasta and cook for 7-10 minutes, until al dente. Strain the pasta, toss with a bit of olive oil, and set aside.
- Add ¼ teaspoon of salt to the broccoli, continuing to stir. When almost tender, add the chicken and remaining olive oil to the pan, stirring until everything is combined. Chop the asparagus into 1-2-inch pieces and add to the broccoli. Continue sautéing until the asparagus is tender and the chicken is cooked throughout. Add the cooked pasta, lemon juice, and chopped herbs, toss all together, and remove from the heat. Add salt to taste if necessary, and garnish with additional herbs and lemon slices. Enjoy this dish hot or cold!