Step 1: First, prep the vegetables. Snap off the woody ends from the asparagus and slice into 1-inch pieces on a bias (slanted). Thinly slice the garlic cloves and slice the shallot crosswise/horizontally into thin rounds.
Step 2: Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat. Cook the pasta to al dente. It should have a little bite to it as it will finish cooking with the asparagus. Drain the pasta and reserve ½ cup of pasta water.
Step 3: While the pasta is cooking, heat a large frying pan on medium to medium-high heat with olive oil. The oil should cover the bottom of the pan in a thin layer. Once the oil starts to shimmer, add the shallots and garlic, a little salt and pepper, and fry till the shallots are opaque and the garlic is cooked through but not brown – around 3 minutes. Add the tomato paste and sauté for another 2 minutes. Add in the asparagus and season with more salt, pepper, and a pinch of chili flakes (optional) and cook for about 10 mins, or until the asparagus can be easily pierced by a knife.
Step 4: Add the cooked pasta, basil leaves, and just a ¼ cup of the reserved pasta water, and gently toss everything together till a glossy sauce coats everything in the pan. Use a little more pasta water if needed. Take off the heat and add the lemon zest, more cracked pepper, a couple leaves of thinly sliced basil and chili flakes, if using. Serve straight out of the pan.
*If you really love shallots, you can do three small ones 😛
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