Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium-low heat. When the butter is bubbly, add the cut-up asparagus pieces.
Stir the asparagus in the hot butter for two minutes, and then add the coarsely chopped cashews. Continue to cook, stirring very frequently, for four more minutes.
Reduce heat to low, cover the skillet, and allow the cashews and asparagus to cook, stirring once or twice. Continue to cook for four more minutes, or until the cashews are toasted and the asparagus is done to your liking.
When the asparagus and cashew mixture is done, turn off the burner and remove the mixture to a medium bowl and set aside.
In the same skillet, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the broken spaghetti pieces and stir, sautéing until it is just beginning to toast.
When the spaghetti pieces are just beginning to brown, add the chopped onion.
Sauté the spaghetti and onion together for 2 minutes, and then add the rice and garlic and sauté another 2 minutes.
When the spaghetti-rice mixture is toasty, pour in the chicken broth and add the lemon zest.Stir and bring the mixture a simmer over medium heat, then cover it, reduce the heat, and simmer for about 25-30 minutes. Uncover and stir the mixture occasionally, then put the cover back on and let it continue to cook. Keep a careful eye on the pilaf, especially in the last ten minutes of cooking. Check and add liquid as needed toward the end of cooking time. You may need to add additional liquid, depending on the specific spaghetti and rice.Taste the rice to make sure it is done to your liking before proceeding.
The final step is to sprinkle to pilaf with lemon juice, and it’s ready to serve! Garnish with lemon slices and whole cooked asparagus stalks and serve warm.
Tips for Picking Out Asparagus:Fresh asparagus should be bright green in color, with slight fading to white at the cut end of the stalk. If asparagus seems faded or dull, it had passed its sell-by date.Asparagus should stand up straight, and be firm and smooth to the tough. Do not choose limp or wilted stalks. The tips of the asparagus should be tight; closed and compact. If the leaves are soft or spreading away from the stalk, keep looking.For this recipe, use the thinnest stalks you can find.