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penne with asparagus and prosciutto

April 9, 2010

It’s been a pasta kind of week for us since returning from Italy.  You would think that we would be sick of it by now, but you’d be wrong.  This one made me all the more excited because it featured asparagus, looked easy enough for a weekday meal and of course, was a pasta dish.

Some things to note about this recipe:

  • You use the same salted water to boil the pasta that you used for the asparagus.  Not what I would have expected, but definitely added something to the dish.
  • Apparently La Cucina Italiana is in the business of feeding an army, the ingredient list below is paired down and slightly altered and there was still enough to feed 4 people as a main dish.  Table for two beware.
  • The prosciutto really adds to this dish.  I say this only because if there’s a temptation to leave it out, I fear the dish would be disappointing.  If I think of a good veggie sub, I’ll let you know.  Or, you can let me know, even better.
  • Although for the purposes of TRYING to be a little healthy, I used whole wheat pasta, I would recommend going with your everyday regular pasta, the grainy nature of the whole wheat seemed to compete quite a bit with the sauce. It didn’t hurt, but it didn’t help.
  • I’m convinced that everything is better toasted.  Although the recipe didn’t call for it, I gave the prosciutto and asparagus tips a time-out in a 500°F/250°C oven to make them a little crispy.  So glad I did.

Penne with asparagus and prosciutto
adapted from La Cucina Italiana


  • 250 grams/9 oz ricotta (8.8 oz to be exact)
  • 450grams/1lb asparagus
  • 1lb penne (or any pasta really, I had pipe rigate on hand and used that)
  • 3/4 cup parmigiano, coarsely grated
  • 3 ounces prosciutto, sliced thinly
  • salt


  1. Pre-heat oven to 500°F/250°C.
  2. Bring a pot of salted water (I added about 1/4 tsp) to boil.  Note:  While you are going to use this water to boil the asparagus, you are also going to use it for your pasta, so make sure that you have enough in the pot to accomplish this.  I did not and had to add a little more water to make ends meet.
  3. While water is coming to a boil, chop asparagus in thirds.  Make sure to leave a decent amount of room for the tips.
  4. Thinly slice your prosciutto.  I find thebest way to do this was to roll up the prosciutto and slice that way.  Quick and easy.
  5. Add asparagus stem pieces to boiling water.  Boil for 5 minutes.
  6. Add the tips.  Boil for an addition 3 minutes.
  7. Remove pot from range.  Using a slotted spoon, remove asparagus from boiling water.
  8. Separate stems from tips.  KC note:  not a good idea to use your bare fingers for this one.  Trust me.  Use small tongs or just roll them around on a cutting board with a fork as I eventually did.
  9. Blend asparagus, ricotta and a pinch of salt to a blender until you get something that looks almost like one of those freaky Shamrock milkshakes that McDonalds sells around St. Patty’s day (do they still do that actually?)
  10. Bring your oddly colored asparagus water back to a boil.
  11. Place prosciutto and asparagus tips on a non-stick roasting pan.
  12. Your water should now be boiling again, so add your pasta and cook according to directions (given that mine were whole-wheat that was 10 minutes).
  13. Put prosciutto and asparagus tips in oven.
  14. Your prosciutto will roast faster than your asparagus, so check in on it after a few minutes.  They should be slightly crunchy, not crumbly.
  15. Remove the asparagus tips when the pasta is finished cooking for nice, crunchy tips.  Less time if you don’t love roasted asparagus tips as much as I do.
  16. Drain pasta, but make sure to reserve some of that pasta water (the secret to any good sauce!)
  17. Toss everything together is a warm bowl.  Why warm?  The pasta won’t congeal as quickly in a warm bowl.   KC note: I did not use a warm bowl, it congealed somewhat quickly and I didn’t care.  After all, it’s a Thursday night and who the heck as the time to take pictures AND warm a bowl?
  18. Garnish with a little extra parmigiano.
  19. Enjoy!

MMMMM....asparagus. So good going in, so stinky coming out

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