This is one of those easy pasta dishes that is simple, very easy to make and looks quite pretty.
With the addition of a bit of white wine, it is a great pasta recipe for serving guests.
This pancetta and asparagus pasta recipe comes from a wonderful Italian food cookbook called 250 True Italian Pasta Dishes: Easy and Authentic Recipes written by John Coletta, chef and owner of Quartino, one of Chicago’s finest restaurants.
Pennette are smaller and a bit thinner than penne about the same length and width as the asparagus pieces in this recipe. You can easily substitute other pasta shapes as shown in the tips above.
Because this is a short, sturdy pasta, it is easier to toss using a wooden spoon rather than pasta tongs, which work best for longer pastas.
For an even healthier recipe, you can use whole wheat pasta.
Easy Pasta Dishes: Pennette with Pancetta and Asparagus
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, extra-virgin
- 3/4 cup pancetta, diced
- 1/4 cup onion, diced
- 1 cup asparagus, pencil-thin, sliced into 2 inches pieces
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup wine, dry white Italian
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 pound pasta, uncooked penette or penne (see Variations, below)
- 3/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated, divided
- In a covered pasta pot over high heat, bring water to a rapid boil.
- Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add the pancetta and onion and cook, stirring, until pancetta is cooked through and onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Add the asparagus, season to taste with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until asparagus is tender, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and cook until reduced by half.
- Remove from heat and set aside.
- While the sauce is simmering, add salt and pennette to the boiling water and cook, uncovered, over high heat until pasta is almost al dente. Scoop out about 1 cup of the pasta water and set aside.
- Drain the pasta.
- Return the sauté pan to medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the reserved pasta water and return to a simmer. Add pennette and continue to cook for about 3 minutes, until pasta is al dente, using a wooden spoon to toss and coat evenly, and adding more pasta water if necessary. Add half of the Parmigiano-Reggiano and toss well.
- Transfer to a large serving bowl and sprinkle with remaining cheese.
- Serve at once.
Tips and Variations:
- If the pennette shape pasta is not available, substitute penne or cut ziti.
- Never rinse pasta after draining it. The surface starch helps the sauce to cling and is important to producing the best-quality dish.
- Always taste the final product and, if necessary, add more salt and pepper just before serving.