We get the most amazing cream cheese ever as part of our Old Pine Farm CSA. It comes from Greystone Farm and Creamery in Chelsea and is made with sheep's milk. It has a distinctive sour tang that is addictive. Last month I went a little overboard though, and found myself with a heap of it about to pass its expiration date. I also had a generous bunch of asparagus and was wondering what to make. I came across this fantastic-sounding creamy pasta dish over on Smitten Kitchen and made a few variations for what I had on hand. The Smitten Kitchen version uses goat cheese and tarragon, both of which would be divine. You could make endless variations really. And it's great leftover straight from the fridge — I'm eating some right now!
Creamy Asparagus Pasta
1 pound spiral-shaped pasta
1 pound asparagus spears, trimmed, cut into 1- to 1 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 Tb chopped fresh mint plus more for garnish
6 to 8 oz. cream cheese
Fresh lemon juice to taste
Cook pasta in a large pot of well-salted water until it is about three minutes away from being done (according to box instructions). Add asparagus and cook until just slightly tender, about two to three minutes more. Drain both pasta and asparagus together, reserving one cup of pasta water. (I just dip a glass measuring cup into the pot before I take it off the stove to gather some pasta water.)
Meanwhile, combine olive oil, lemon zest, mint and cream cheese in a large bowl and stir to combine. Add hot pasta and asparagus to the bowl and toss well until thoroughly combined and creamy. Add a few splashes of pasta water if needed. Season generously with salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste.
As for asparagus, I know most people go for the ultra-skinny ones, but I prefer a good medium size stalk with some thickness. Not honking thick, mind you, just substantial. And if you look closely in the photos above, you might spy a garlic scape or two. I've been throwing them into just about everything since their season is so short-lived. If you haven't tried them, you should be able to pick some up at the farmer's market near you for a couple more weeks.