This is a great pasta dish to throw together on a spring weeknight when asparagus is in season. If you have a wok, it’s the best thing for this as it cooks the veggies... faster and with less oil, and it gives you space to toss everything together with the pasta. Once the veggies are prepped, the veggies and light parmesan sauce takes around 12-15 minutes to cook, so you can time the pasta to be ready around the same time to quickly finish the dish.
Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta for 1 minute less than packet instructions. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water and drain the pasta. Set both aside.
Meanwhile, in a wok or large saute pan, warm the olive oil over a medium-high heat. When it ripples, add the garlic and chili pods, if using. Cook, stirring until the garlic starts to color, about 1 minute. Add pine nuts and a generous grind or pinch of black pepper. Cook 1 minute, then add the asparagus. Sprinkle with salt.
Cook, stirring until the asparagus starts to soften, about 5 minutes. Add a ¼ cup of the reserved pasta water after 2 minutes to deglaze the pan and create steam to cook the asparagus faster. Add the peas and cook until they turn bright green, about 1 minute. Add another ¼ cup of pasta water if the pan looks dry. Add the butter, if using, and the grated cheese. Cook, stirring until they melt into the liquid at the bottom of the pan to form a light sauce. Add 1-2 tablespoons of pasta water if needed.
Add the chopped mint and parsley. Stir to mix. Add the arugula and stir until it wilts, about 30 seconds. Add the cooked pasta to the pan and toss to mix with the vegetables and herbs. Cook 1 minute. Serve immediately with extra grated parmesan cheese.
If you want to add more fiber to your meal, use whole-wheat penne instead of pappardelle.
A note about cooking pasta: Often the packet cooking times will say “10-12 minutes” or “5-7 minutes” depending on the type of pasta. Unless you live at a high altitude, always cook your chosen pasta for 1 minute less than the fastest given cooking time. This will ensure your pasta is always al dente.