Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Creamy Pasta with Asparagus and Ham

Creamy Pasta with Asparagus and Ham

Luscious and easy – and perfect for spring

Asparagus season? Yes! We like to celebrate its iconic springtime flavor whenever the local crop is available.

Asparagus combines wonderfully with ham and cream. Add some pasta to the mix, and you have a simple (but wonderful) main course. Or serve half portions as a starter.

The season for asparagus is fleeting. So spear this recipe while you can.



Creamy Pasta with Asparagus and Ham

Recipe: Creamy Pasta with Asparagus and Ham

You could make this dish with Homemade Pasta if you wish. But we generally use dried pasta (a tubular shape, like penne or ziti, works best).

In Italy, you’d probably see this dish made with prosciutto – and that’s a great way to prepare it. But we happened to have some leftover ham, so that’s what we decided to use.

This recipe is adapted from one we found in Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.

Prep time for this dish is 5 to 10 minutes. You’ll need to cook the asparagus for about 5 minutes, but you can prepare that well in advance if you wish. Final cooking takes under 10 minutes.

This recipe yields two main-course servings (or about twice that number if served as a first course). You can easily double or triple the recipe to feed a larger group.

Ingredients
  • ~10 ounces asparagus
  • ~2 tablespoons kosher salt, divided (or half that amount if using table salt; see Notes)
  • 6 to 8 ounces dried pasta (we prefer a tubular shape like penne or ziti; see Notes)
  • 4 ounces cooked ham (may increase to 6 or more ounces if you wish)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ~½ cup cream
  • ½ to ¾ ounce Parmigiano Reggiano (about ½ cup, packed tightly, when grated; you’ll probably want a bit extra to sprinkle on the pasta at table)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste (see Notes)
Procedure
  1. Prepare the asparagus: Cut off an inch or two of the less tender butt end of each asparagus spear (up to a third of the spear). You can peel the asparagus if you wish. Fill a large frying pan with water (we use a 12-inch pan). Bring the water to a simmer. Add about 1 tablespoon of kosher salt to the water, then add the asparagus. Cook until almost done (about 4 to 5 minutes; the asparagus should be barely tender). Drain the asparagus, then plunge it into a large bowl filled with ice water (this will stop the cooking). Let the asparagus sit for a minute, then spread it out on paper towels to dry. When dry, cut the asparagus into lengths of 2 to 4 inches. (We usually prepare the asparagus several hours ahead of time, then just let it sit on the kitchen counter until ready to use).
  2. When ready to prepare the dish, measure out the dried pasta. Fill a large cooking pot slightly over half full with water (use a cooking pot that holds at least 4 quarts). Bring to a boil.
  3. Meanwhile, cut the ham into strips about ¼ inch wide and an inch or two long. Place a large frying pan (12-inch, preferably) over low stovetop heat.
  4. When the pasta water comes to a boil, add about 1 tablespoon of kosher salt to season it (see Notes). Add the pasta, then cook until done (usually about 7 minutes for us, which is shorter than the package directions specify; cook it longer if you prefer; but you do want the pasta to be al dente).
  5. Meanwhile, add 2 tablespoons of butter to the frying pan and bring the stovetop heat up to medium. When the butter is melted, add the ham strips. Sauté for 3 to 4 minutes – you don’t want to let the ham brown.
  6. While the ham is cooking, measure out the cream and grate the cheese.
  7. After the ham has cooked for 3 to 4 minutes, add the asparagus to the frying pan. Cook for 2 minutes. Add the cream, turn down the heat, then let the cream reduce a bit.
  8. By now the pasta should be ready. Pour the pasta into a colander to drain, then add the cooked pasta to the frying pan with the ham. Toss with the cream and add most of the grated cheese (save a little for garnish). 
  9. Toss the ingredients once more, season with salt and/or freshly ground black pepper, and dish up the pasta. Garnish with the remaining grated cheese.
Creamy Pasta with Asparagus and Ham

Notes
  • Exact quantities of ingredients are not critical in this recipe. Feel free to use more asparagus and/or ham than we suggest. But don’t use too much cream – the pasta and other ingredients should be lightly coated, not swimming in cream sauce.
  • We often don’t add salt or black pepper in Step 9, preferring to do so at table (this dish rarely needs extra salt – the ham and cheese is plenty salt for our taste).
  • Speaking of salt, we always use kosher salt in cooking. It’s less salty than regular table salt (the crystals are coarser, so they pack a measure less tightly). If using regular table salt, start with about half as much as we recommend. But always season to your taste, not ours.
  • BTW, adding salt to the cooking water in Steps 1 and 4 helps season the asparagus and pasta.
  • Can’t find decent asparagus in your market? Frozen peas work well in this dish. Different flavor, of course, but equally good with ham and cream.
  • We like to use dried penne or ziti for this dish. But use any pasta shape you like – farfalle (bow-ties) also work well. You could even use a long-strand pasta if you prefer.
  • Back in the day, we always used 4 ounces of dried pasta for a main-course serving. We just can’t eat as much these days, so we’ve cut that to 3 ounces. And we use about half that amount if serving pasta as a first course.
  • You can use domestic Parmesan in this dish if you want, but imported Parmigiano Reggiano is readily available these days and tastes much better.
Creamy Pasta with Asparagus and Ham

Using Our Noodles

“Great dish!” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “And a good way to use leftover ham.”

Grazie,” I said. “Just noodled around in the kitchen, and this is what I came up with.”

“Ah, feeling a little saucy today, are we?” said Mrs K R. “Penne for your thoughts.”

“That joke is pasta due,” I said.

“Well,” said Mrs K R, “I’m just exploring all the pasta-bilities for laughs.”

Yup. And she’s tortellini awesome, isn’t she?

You may also enjoy reading about:
Braised Ham
Homemade Pasta
Fettuccine Alfredo
Pasta Cacio e Pepe
Pasta Caprese
Summer Pasta Salad
Roast Asparagus
Asparagus with Savory Whipped Cream
Or check out the index for more

70 comments:

  1. I will spear the moment! Love asparagus and this is a creamy dish for it. Wish I had some for lunch.

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  2. Hi Evelyne, now that you mention it, wish WE had some for lunch today, too. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  3. Hi John! This is perfect timing. Certain we will have left over ham from Easter and just bought a huge double bundle of asparagus. It's like you were reading our mind... Wishing you a very lovely week.

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  4. Hi Bobbi, reading our own minds, too -- our menu is similar. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  5. A perfect spring pasta recipe! It looks terrific.

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  6. Hi Pam, this really is a super dish -- lovely flavor. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  7. Thanks for the how to's and the laughs! Sounds delicious

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  8. Hi Anne, it IS delish. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  9. This is so fresh and delightful, it is also perfect for Autumn on the other side of the globe. I love how the asparagus are still holding their shape and either just a little cream to combine the dish together. Buon appetito 😀

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  10. Hi Merryn, as long as you can get decent asparagus, this will be a good dish any time of the year. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  11. Marcella Hazan's recipes are always so very simple. You absolutely have to use the best ingredients!

    Sounds luscious!

    best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

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  12. Hi Mae, her recipes really are so straightforward, aren't they? And you're right that topnotch ingredients make a big difference! Thanks for the comment.

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  13. Another delicious way to enjoy spring asparagus! Lovely pasta dish John! I can certainly see it being made with homemade pasta. With my pasta machine I can make penne. YAY!

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  14. One of my weekday standbys and a delightful recipe tho' I have a four-month delay to get local fresh asparagus. Any tasty ham will do methinks but, since I do not use cream, some Greek yoghurt is oft stirred in at the last moment with happy results . . .

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  15. HI MJ, I'm jealous that you can make your own penne! You definitely need to make some for this dish. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  16. Hi Eha, there are dozens of versions of this recipe, all good! Haven't thought to use Greek yogurt -- but I will. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  17. Yum! Perfect meal to use up our leftover Easter ham! Super easy and delicious---can't beat that combo!

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  18. Hi Liz, easy and delish -- yup, checks all our boxes. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  19. I have been eating lots of asparagus and this pasta dish seems like a perfect one to enjoy more :-)

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  20. Hi Angie, hard to have too much asparagus, isn't it? :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  21. hahaha! You two are so cute :) John, I love everything about this dish! Ham and asparagus were made for each other. Meals that are simple, but so flavorful like this one, are the best!

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  22. Hi Marcelle, ham and asparagus are definitely made for each other. Particularly when there's cream involved. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  23. Oh how delicious KR! Yum. Not asparagus season here so we’ll have to wait till Spring. Cheers
    Sherry

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  24. What a lovely dish for Spring☺☺

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  25. I see you made your favorite, PASTA! ;)
    I love pasta's different shapes!! This was a favorite shape of mine back in the day, as well as the bow ties!!

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  26. Hi Sherry, there are always frozen peas! This dish is really good with those, too, although a quite different flavor. Thanks for the comment.

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  27. Hi Natalia, isn't it nice? And tasty! Thanks for the comment.

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  28. Hi GiGi, we can never resist pasta! Good stuff. :-) This shape is fun, and we think perfect for this dish. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  29. John, this is wonderful! Pinned for making soon. Mini penne is my favorite pasta, always have it on hand. Beautiful plate of food!

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  30. Hi Jean, we like mini penne a lot! The regular kind, too, but the mini seems better suited to a lot of recipes (and of course is what we used in the pictures for this one). Thanks for the comment.

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  31. What a delicious pasta dish. So comforting!

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  32. Hi Denise, yup: Spring comfort food. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  33. Such a delightful and delicious springtime meal!

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  34. What a fabulous way to enjoy leftover Easter ham! Lively spring flavors and color too!

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  35. Hi Amy, isn't this nice? SO good! Thanks for the comment.

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  36. Hi Deb, this really does have nice colors. Flavor too, of course. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  37. Such a pretty, bright and happy plate! The flavors sound delicious. I've been picking up asparagus every time I see it. Can't get enough. :-) A very happy holiday weekend to you and yours.

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  38. This is an interesting recipe of penne Pasta....amazing clicks too

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  39. Tis the season, John! Love those springtime flavors. We'll be having lamb at Easter, but I'm more than happy to buy some ham to make this treat.

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  40. Hi Valentina, isn't this rather pretty? Love its looks and its flavors! Hope you have a wonderful weekend, and thanks for the comment.

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  41. Hi M&E, isn't it fun? SO good. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  42. Hi Frank, hard to resist lamb at this time of the year, isn't it? SO good -- love it. My favorite red meat. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  43. I love the combination of asparagus and ham...such a great recipe and perfect to make with the leftover ham...
    Thanks for the recipe John...have a great Easter!

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  44. Hi Juliana, it's worth baking or braising a ham just to have leftovers to make this dish! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  45. Asparagus is one of my favorite spring veggies! This is a must-try!

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  46. Hi Kelsie, you must try this. Must! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  47. Wonderful! This pasta just screams Spring! I love everything about this. Ham is so good - smoked chicken would work well, too. Gosh, so many other options as well. I LOVE PASTA!!!

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  48. Hi Mimi, we love pasta too -- it's on the menu for tonight (different dish than this). Really liked the idea of smoked chicken -- gotta try that! Thanks for the comment.

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  49. I've got to get some spears before they fleet away!

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  50. Hi Debra, better spear some now! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  51. John, your timing with the recipe is perfect over this way as we're off to harvest our first of the season asparagus Monday. We have a local organic producer (family friends) that let's come in a harvest with them. We'll end the day with each family preparing a dish in their farm kitchen. I've been debating about what to cook and you've made up my mind. I think the pastability of this dish being a hit is high. Thanks for the inspiration.

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  52. John — you have just given me the recipe for dinner tomorrow night! We have a young guest with very specific food needs, and this recipe fits them all! It will make for an unusual but wonderful Easter supper! And, while we’re at it, Happy Easter to you and Mrs. KR, as well.

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  53. Hi Ron, lucky you! Sounds like a fun day. And happy to be of inspiration. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  54. Hi David, you'll enjoy this! And so will your young guest. :-) Happy Easter, and thanks for the comment.

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  55. I cannot get enough of local asparagus in spring. The season is so short that I buy it every week at the farmers market even if my husband looks at me sometimes like I have gone asparagus crazy. What can I say? I probably have. But who can blame me? ;)

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  56. Hi Carolyn, there are far worse things in life than being asparagus-crazed. Far worse. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  57. I have been eating a lot of white asparagus while visiting Germany . I like your recipe and I am ready for some green asparagus. I hope you had a wonderful holiday.

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  58. Hi Gerlinde, white asparagus is so good! Bet it'd work well in this dish -- need to try it. Although green asparagus is wonderful. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  59. What a fantastic combination! And one that's new to me. I love asparagus, and I'm a 100% carb fanatic, so any kind of pasta is great for me.

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  60. John, this pasta dish looks so creamy and delicious! So happy that asparagus season is finally here, and this is the perfect dish to welcome it!

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  61. Hi Jeff, pasta is wonderful stuff, isn't it? We could eat it every single day! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  62. Hi Kelly, asparagus season is all too short, isn't it? So we really need to eat it all the time while it's in season. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  63. I have some leftover Asparagus from my Easter dinner and was wondering what I could do with. This is perfect idea, John. Thank you for another delicious dish idea!

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  64. Yum! Luscious and easy works for me! This is a springtime dish for sure and I need more asparagus. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

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  65. Hi Holly, your leftover asparagus will be wonderful in this. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  66. Hi Pam, hard to have too much asparagus at this time of the year, isn't it? :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  67. I just bought some asparagus this evening, even though I always have trouble getting the sand out. This super springy pasta has me excited to cook it.

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  68. Hi Laura, I'm always excited when I have asparagus to cook! :-) And it's really wonderful in this dish. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  69. I made this for dinner tonight John and it was really really good even if... I didn't have any ham! I had some fresh asparagus and was dying to put the two together so I switched to a different kind of pork and added some bacon. Absolutely yummy.

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  70. Hi Barb, bacon would be wonderful in this dish! Glad you enjoyed it. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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