Penne with Ricotta and Asparagus

With California asparagus selling for less than $4 per pound, they’re hard to resist, especially with summer weather knocking on the door. I tore this recipe for pasta with asparagus and ricotta cheese out of the New York Times magazine a few weeks ago, where it found its way under a pile of bills, magazines, and other recipes, until today when it became my excuse to gleefully buy some what are sure to be last-of-the-season asparagus. I ammended the original recipe by adding a few dashes of nutmeg to the seasoning, for an added kick. This recipe is simple, both in taste and method, only requires one pot, and makes a huge amount. It’s a little heavy on the pasta, you could easily cut it back. You can also dress it up some by adding lemon zest, cut cherry tomatoes, or even some Italian sausage.

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Penne with Ricotta and Asparagus Recipe

  • Yield: Serves 4 as a side, 8 as a main.

Ingredients

  • Salt
  • 1 1/4 pound thick asparagus, woody ends trimmed
  • 1 lb penne pasta
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and mashed
  • 15 oz ricotta cheese
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Nutmeg

Method

1 Bring a large pot of water to a boil. (You will cook both the asparagus and the pasta in the same pot of water.) Add a couple teaspoons of salt. Have an ice bath ready. Add the asparagus and cook until tender but firm, about 4 minutes. Remove the asparagus with tongs and place in the ice bath to stop the cooking. Cut the asparagus into 1/8-inch diagonal slices, leaving the tips intact.

2 Bring the water back to a boil and add the penne pasta.

3 While the penne is cooking, rub the inside of a large serving bowl with the mashed garlic. Discard the garlic. Add the ricotta, olive oil, and 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water. Mix together in the bowl. When the pasta is done, drain it, reserving some of the cooking water. Add the penne to the ricotta mixture. Fold in the asparagus and half of the Parmesan cheese. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and several dashes of nutmeg. Add some of the reserved pasta water if needed.

Serves 4-8, depending on whether or not this is the main course. Serve with remaining grated Parmesan cheese in a separate bowl for sprinkling.

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35 Comments

  1. lydia

    I saved this recipe, too, but haven’t made it yet. Thanks for your suggestions — it’s especially nice to add something like sausage when asparagus are out of season and not quite as luscious as they are right now.

  2. Larry

    Elise!!! once again you’ve given us a recipe that sounds amazing. I found some last-of-the-season Asparagus at the market myself and I think this is what it’s going in. I think I’m going to add just a few sun dried tomatoes to this recipe. I always look forward to trying your recipes, but I think this one is going to be especially killer!

  3. Frank Carter

    Nutmeg seems to be the secret ingredient people use to either add a little mystery to a dish or add extra needed flavor. Personaly I’m not a fan of nutmeg. The flavor and aroma of nutmeg is an instant killer for me. If you really want to add a little kick, add some fresh hot peppers.

  4. Kirsten

    This looks delicious! I love this recipe and will be adding it to the “must try” list. :)

    Thanks!

  5. Amy

    This is a great recipe, I’m always looking for ways to use ricotta since I always seem to have leftovers. Thanks!

  6. Amie

    Figures I’d find this right after I braised the last of this season’s local asparagus with my standard roasted garlic & lemon slices for dinner tonight. This would have been such a nice change! Oh well–have to bookmark it for next year!

  7. MKDOB

    Made this the day it came out in the Times and,
    while it is tasty, wrote: “Double asparagus next time” at the bottom. Used ridged small penne. Might work with broccoli in the winter.

  8. Wendy

    We’ve got a few weeks left of asparagus season in the UK. Plenty of time to try this out. :)

  9. Chris

    This looks so wonderful!! Everything about this recipe is great.

  10. Elise

    Hi MKDOB – Yep, we kind of thought that the ratio of pasta to asparagus was a little off too. Either less pasta or more asparagus.

    The next day I mixed the leftovers in with a little Italian sausage and it was wonderful.

  11. Brandon in AK

    I added fresh King Crab into mine, cherry tomatoes, and lemon zest. Used low-fat ricotta cheese as well.

    Also cut the pasta amount down to 3/4 of a pound.

    Turned out awesome! Will definetly make again.

  12. kelley

    I made something similar to this the other day, except used goat cheese instead of ricotta, and added some grilled eggplant. Hubby said it was the best pasta dish I had ever made!

  13. Christine

    How utterly simple yet delicious! I can almost taste it from the photo. Can’t wait to try it.

  14. Amanda

    I’m going to make this tonight…But I’m going to save a step and boil the pasta then add already cut up asparagus near the end. It seems like I should come out with the same result..and shave a couple minutes off to boot!
    Also, I think I’m going to add a small amount of italian sausage, as this sounds particularly tasty :)

  15. phong

    The addition of some morels and white truffle oil elevates this dish to other worldly levels.

  16. Anali

    This looks wonderful!

  17. ali

    I’ve used several of your recipes before (apple cake immediately comes to mind) but this one was my favorite so far. I just got my first ever CSA box, containing asparagus, so I was looking for a tasty way to use it, and thought this looked good. I didn’t have ricotta at home so I used more freshly grated parmesan. Also tossed in fresh organic chicken sausage with garlic and sage which was super delicious in this. I loved the suggestion to add a little nutmeg and lemon zest. That really made it special. Delicious! Thanks!

  18. Kiriel

    Hmm… I can imagine lightly toasted almonds adding a lovely extra crunch and taste too!

  19. Maria

    This was so delicious and summery. Made as directed with only one change – I didn’t cook the asparagus separately – just added it for the last 4 minutes of cooking time. Came out perfectly… I will make this again, definitely. Thanks for the inspiration, Elise!

  20. Stacy

    I made this last night —– so incredibly yummy. You never lead me astray and this was most excellent. A keeper for sure (and the leftovers were just as tasty).

    Thanks!

  21. Crivenica

    I’m a brand new fan to your recipe blog. Have tried this recipe and your grilled chicken with tarragon sauce. Excellent! Added this blog to my blog roll.

  22. george

    The penne with asparagas was great! For leftovers we added some cut up bbqd chicken. Yummy!

  23. Lindsey

    I just made the Penne with Ricotta and Asparagus and I thought it was horrible! If you make it you definitely need to add something…ANYTHING…to it that will give it flavor. My husband will eat anything I put in front of him without complaint, and he actually said that this dish was NOT GOOD, after dinner he took what was left (most of the dish) and threw it away himself.

  24. sarah

    I made this for dinner tonight and it was very tasty! Absolute comfort food. Next time I’ll increase asparagus by 50% and cut ricotta by 25%. Nutmeg amounts were right on. Perhaps even baking for 10 min will give it an interesting texture.

    Thanks for another excellent dish!

  25. ah-ha

    I increased the asparagus, added some chevre, hot Italian sauage, and arugula. The arugula went great with the sausage.

  26. Jaye

    Opps! Forgot the nutmeg! Maybe that’s why it seems kinda bland… I’ll add it to the leftovers. Adding cherry tomatoes sounds delicious for a spring/summer pasta, and the sub goat cheese, add eggplant sounds marvelous, except I suppose less than 15 oz. of goat cheese would suffice since it’s a heavy taste, not to mention pricey. I love your readers’ comments and suggestions. This site is my favorite cookbook! Thanks!

  27. John Black

    I like this recipe except I don’t believe in blanching vegetables and then putting them in an ice bath. It throws flavour and nutrients down the drain for the sake of colour. I will steam the asparagus in a small amount of water and save that liquid to flavour the sauce. Thanks for a great suggestion.
    John Black

  28. Carrie

    I am a newlywed chef and do not have a lot of recipes in my repertoire that make my kinda-sorta picky husband get excited about. I made this for dinner last (halving the recipe for the two of us) and we both absolutely loved it! Next time, I’m going to cook the garlic and leave it in the mixture after rubbing the serving bowl. I didn’t even use the nutmeg. I’ve got leftovers for lunch tomorrow, an excellent new recipe, and a happily full husband! :)

  29. Shawn Schwantes

    Gearing up for an ultra marathon, I wanted to make a new pasta dish and came across this recipe. I love penne and love asparagus as well. I followed the recipe and added another favorite I pair with asparagus quite often. Try the recipe as listed, but also add a dash of ground cinnamon and sugar as well as red, green, and purple grapes cut in half. It creates a flavorfull balance and adds a little more color. Found a new favorite to share with friends…thanks!

  30. Toni

    Good afternoon! I plan on making this dish tonight as a main entree. I was planning to add some lemon zest, and perhaps some white button mushrooms. Do you think the mushrooms would work well in this dish? Thanks!!

    Sounds good to me. ~Elise

  31. Randi Lynne

    I found the “food blog search” through your site and have been using it instead of a typical google recipe search. It rocks!

    I needed a recipe for some asparagus that I was given, and found this through the search. This light pasta would be great as a main meal or as a side dish. The only thing I differed was using macaroni instead of penne. Thanks for the great recipe!! 5 stars!

  32. Monica

    I made this recipe last night and found it to be a little bland. It might have been because I used part skim ricotta to make it a little healthier. I added some prosciutto and tomatoes and it tasted better.

  33. Tammi Truax

    I’m going to try this and will most likely blog about it after. Thanks for the inspiration!

  34. Ashley R.

    Made this last night and loved it! I skipped the nutmeg (not a huge fan) and added some sauteed sliced mushrooms and halved cherry tomatoes. It was scrumptious, and I’m looking forward to leftovers for lunch! I think next time I’ll try the Italian sausage addition. This is a winner!

  35. jamsine

    Made this a few nights ago and it was fantastic, and also great leftovers the next day. Thanks for posting!

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