Bring about 6 quarts of water to a boil and add about 2 tablespoons salt.
Set up an ice bath next to the pot. Blanch the asparagus. Boil the asparagus for 1 minute, then remove using tongs and plunge into the ice bath, reserving the cooking water. Cut the cooled asparagus into 1-inch pieces and set aside.
In a 12- to 14-inch sauté pan, cook the pancetta over medium-low heat until the fat begins to render, about 6 minutes. Add the butter. Once it has foamed and subsided, add the blanched asparagus and sauté for about 3 to 4 minutes, until pancetta begins to crisp. Season to taste with salt and pepper and remove from the heat.
Drop the pasta into the boiling water and cook until tender, about 1 minute.
Drain the pasta and add to the sauté pan with the pancetta and asparagus. Add the jalapeno pesto and cook over high heat until coated, about 1 minute. Add the grated cheese and toss to mix. Pour into a heated serving bowl, sprinkle each with a pinch of lemon zest and serve immediately.
Green Pasta Dough
1 pound stinging nettles
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 extra large eggs
3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour plus 1/2 cup for dusting your work surface
1 cup semolina flour
Yield: 1 pound
Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil.
Meanwhile, using plastic gloves, separate nettle leaves and stems and discard stems. Set up an ice bath next to the stove and drop nettle leaves into boiling water. Allow cooking for 1 minute, drain and immediately immerse in the ice bath. Drain leaves by pressing between 2 plates to remove all moisture. Place in the bowl of a food processor. Bend with olive oil until mixture has emulsified into a paste.
In a medium-sized bowl, combine nettle paste and eggs. Mound 3 1Ž2 cups of the flour in the center of a large wooden cutting board. Make a well in the middle of the flour and add the egg and nettle mixture. Using a fork, begin to incorporate the flour, starting with the inner rim of the well.
As you expand the well, keep pushing the flour up from the base of the mound to retain the well shape. The dough will come together when half of the flour is incorporated.
Start kneading the dough with both hands, using the palms of your hands. Once you have a cohesive mass, remove the dough from the board and scrape up and discard any leftover bits. Lightly reflour the board and continue kneading for 6 more minutes. The dough should be elastic and a little sticky. Wrap the dough in plastic and allow to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature. Using a pasta rolling machine, roll dough to thinnest setting and cut into 1Ž4 inch thick noodles. Line a sheet tray with parchment paper and sprinkle liberally with semolina. Gently place pasta on top of semolina, cover and set aside.
Note: Do not skip the kneading or resting portion of this recipe. They are essential for a light pasta.
6 Fresh jalapeno peppers, cored & seeded
1/2 medium red onion, chopped into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 cup sliced blanched almonds
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Make the jalapeno pesto: Place the jalapenos, almonds, and olive oil in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Season with salt to taste. Set aside 1/2 teaspoon for the dish and refrigerate the rest for later use.