Easy Spring Penne with Asparagus and Guanciale, a lovely dish for Spring. If you're a pasta lover like us, you will totally enjoy this meal. Penne pasta meat earthy sweet asparagus and crispy salty guanciale, a real tastebud tantalizer this is!
Song of the day: Sunday Best - Surfaces
After a long time of seeing just those root vegetables at our local organic market, finally some beautiful asparagus begin to appear. Furthermore I found these thin baby like asparagus that are so tempting, I could not resist buying them!
Working as a team
As most of you who follow us know, we are a couple running this food blog. It has many advantages, besides splitting the work load, we feed off each other for inspiration.
When I brought home those asparagus, Nicoletta right away thought pasta dish and one that her father does all the time with wild asparagus, and a delicious one it is. Who would know better than Nicoletta who happens to be from Rome, Italy, and is passionate about her culture and the traditional foods, especially pasta! Come with us into our kitchen and we are going to show you just how simple it is to make a lovely Italian Easy Spring Penne with Asparagus and Guanciale!
Gathering the ingredients
I am one of those organizer individuals, actually both Nicoletta and I like to get all our ingredients ready so the whole process of cooking runs way smoother. Let's see what we need:
- purple cipolline onions or yellow onion
- extra virgin olive oil
- a good quality penne pasta (or you can use a long pasta like spaghetti, fettuccine, or tonnarelli)
- a piece of guanciale (salt cured pork cheek that you can find at your local Italian deli). Pancetta is a good substitute
- salt and pepper
- Pecorino or Parmigiano, optional, but recommended
First things first
This dish is all about building harmony, flavor and texture. More so, we have elements of softness which meets crispiness. How does that happen you ask, well we firstly start off by frying up the guanciale that we slivered really fine. This does two things, it crisps it up, more so, it also flavors our pan! Likewise, we are going to saute our garlic, onion, and asparagus in all those lovely juices from the guanciale.
A little garlic 101
I just wanted to share a little about how us Italians use garlic. Depending on the dish, most of the time we put it in the pan whole after squishing it a bit to get that oil releasing. Then we take it out after, so no one gets a mouthful of garlic.
Really all we want is to infuse that flavor into our oil and ingredients. I put my garlic into the cold oil and swirl it around a bit before turning the heat on, a good way to get the two acquainted! Don't burn the garlic, that will leave a really bitter flavor in the oil furthermore bringing it into all the other ingredients.
Back to making this Easy Spring Penne with Asparagus and Guanciale!
Secondly, what we want to do is get a large pot of salted water on boil. Thirdly, toss the onions into the pan with the garlic. After a few minutes we add in the asparagus and sauté for about 8-10 minutes, or until the asparagus begins to soften a bit. Remember, we are going to finish this pasta in the pan so there will be time to cook the asparagus some more.
Time to cook the pasta!
The veggies are sautéing, our water is boiling, time to drop our penne into the water. I always taste the water for salt. The salt of preference for cooking pasta is coarse sea salt. The water should taste similar to a light broth. Never add oil to the water, this will make the pasta slick and will not be able to absorb all that delicious flavor we have created in the pan!
A little toss in the pan
Our penne is cooked to the desired al dente texture. I always follow the recomended cooking time on the package, but since we are going to finish it in the pan I take it out a couple minutes before to ensure I get that lovely toothiness that both Nicoletta and I love! Finally and lastly the pasta goes into the pan which I have turned the heat to a medium setting. Don't throw out the pasta water. It is starchy and has flavor that we will use to create a wonderful sauce.
I toss the penne with the sautéed asparagus and onions and I grab a laddle and pour in some of the pasta water. I continually toss the mixture and that my friends is it. This dish is done!
Pecorino or Parmigiano Reggiano
Whoever invented Parmigiano Reggiano is brilliant and Italian of course, lol! There is nothing like bringing more flavor to a dish that a sprinkling of this grated cheese! I always catch Nicoletta shaving pieces off the cheese and eating it! Can't blame her though, it is so tasty! To have more of a pronounced flavor you can use Pecorino instead of Parmigiano, or, why not, a mix of the two.
Our dish is plated and we are ready to sit at the table to enjoy this meal we have both prepared. We paired it with a glass of chilled Pinot Grigio.
Crispy, earthy, fresh, sweet, and salty!
I am so happy I bought those asparagus. They are just lovely with this penne. I love the sweet earthiness of this vegetable and how it still has a little bite in texture. Furthermore it pairs so well with the nuttiness of the penne accompanied by the sweetness of the onion and spice of the garlic. A real tastebud explosion happens when the crispy guanciale comes into play with that Parmigiano. Furthermore, the harmony between sweet and salty is such a pleasurable experience to the taste buds!
These days we are spending loads of time at home, everyone is cooking more, and we are always looking for meal ideas that are flavorful, enjoyable to all our family, and also economical. You can't get a better bang for your buck than with a good pasta dish. It's Sunday, why not get your Italian on and put together a wonderful lunch including this Easy Spring Penne with Asparagus and Guanciale!
Buona Domenica e Buon Appetito!Print
- 300 g penne pasta
- 1 Tbsp evo oil
- 90-100 g guanciale, cut into strips (pancetta also works)
- 1 whole clove garlic
- 1 medium purple cipolline onion sliced
- 290 g (1 bundle) asparagus, ends trimmed and cut into pieces
- salt & pepper to taste
- Pecorino or Parmigiano, freshly grated
- In a medium sauté pan toss in guanciale strips and cook until golden and crisp, about 2-3 minutes on med to high heat. Take out with a slotted spoon and into a paper towel lined bowl. Set aside. Set pan with juices aside also, we are going to use it to saute the vegetables.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.
- In the same pan as the one you cooked the guanciale, drizzle in olive oil, add garlic, and onions. Turn to a medium heat and sauté 2 minutes. Add asparagus and sauté for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and stir. Toss in ¾ of the crispy guanciale, reserving the rest for garnishing. Turn off heat and set aside.
- While the vegetables are sautéing, toss the penne into the pot of boiling salted water. Cook for about 11 minutes or for the recommended time on the package, minus a couple minutes because we are going to finish the pasta in the pan with the asparagus.
- With a sieve or slotted spoon, scoop the penne and place it with the asparagus in the pan. Turn heat to a medium and also add half a ladle of pasta water. Toss well and cook for roughly 2 minutes or until water has mostly absorbed. Remember, we want to create some kind of a sauce. Turn off heat.
- Sprinkle pasta and asparagus with the rest of the crispy guanciale. Drizzle a touch of evo oil, and dust with grated Parmigiano or Pecorino!
- Ready to serve.
We like to use Pecorino. It is stronger and more pungent in flavor, perfect in this pasta dish!
Guanciale usually can be found at the deli counter of your local Italian market. If you can't find guanciale, which is a salted pork cheek, pancetta will also work.
Instead of penne, you can use a long pasta like spaghetti, fettuccine, tonnarelli, or tagliolini.
Always remember to reserve the pasta water, it is a great ingredient to create a flavorful sauce for the pasta, more so, keeping our pasta moist and not dry.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Category: Pasta
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Italian
Keywords: Penne, asparagus, onions, garlic, Italian cuisine, evo oil, guanciale, Parmigiano Reggiano, pasta, pecorino, easter, spring
When I am not cooking, I enjoy playing musical instruments, singing, writing. I have learned over the years to live in gratitude and enjoy the moment.