Regardless of what your thermometer may say, spring has officially sprung! And this pasta dish is, in fact, spring on a plate.  It’s filled with the best of the season starting with asparagus, a seasonal vegetable you can currently get fresh and cheap. Pair that with chicken, lemon, parsley, and whole-wheat pasta and you have a bright and flavorful meal.  If that didn’t sell you, this dish is also quite healthful. The chicken tenders are 99-percent fat- free and the whole-wheat pasta provides additional protein and fiber, so you have everything your body needs in one dish. Enjoy!

Ingredients (makes 4-5 servings):

½ lb. whole wheat penne pasta (half a box)

1 lb. 99-percent fat-free chicken tenders

1 bunch fresh asparagus (ends trimmed)

4 tablespoons vegetable oil (divided)

2 lemons (juice and zest)

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

4-5 garlic cloves (minced)

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

¼ cup chopped parsley (a generous handful)

Salt & pepper

Grated parmesan cheese (for garnish)


First, place a large pot of water over high heat to bring to a boil. Preheat grill pan or outdoor grill to high.  While the grill is heating, season both sides of chicken tenders with salt and pepper. Grate the zest of 1 lemon onto the chicken.  Next, on a separate plate, toss the asparagus in 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil and season with salt, pepper, and lemon zest as well.  Now the grill should be hot, so pour the other 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil on a paper towel and rub on the grill to prevent sticking and burning.  Grill the chicken tenders for about 3 minutes on the first side, flip and grill for another 3 minutes.  You will know the tenders are ready to be turned when they come right off; if they are sticking, they need another minute. 

After the tenders are cooked, put them on a plate and set aside, and then place the asparagus on the grill at an angle.  Grill for about 4-5 minutes, until they are slightly softened and have visible grill marks.  Put the asparagus on a plate and set aside to cool as well. 

Now your pasta water should be boiling.  Add salt to the water and cook pasta until al dente (following the directions on the package). Meanwhile chop the chicken and asparagus it into pieces about the same size as the penne. Once pasta is cooked, drain and leave the noodles in the colander.  In the same pot that you cooked your pasta in, heat ¼ cup olive oil, add the minced garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté for about 30 seconds.  Then add the parsley and the juice of 2 lemons and stir to combine.  Add pasta, chicken, and asparagus to the pot, stir and season everything with a bit more salt and pepper.  Serve immediately with a generous helping of parmesan cheese on top.