June 3, 2013

Penne and asparagus carbonara

Serving bowl of penne and asparagus carbonara.

Spring time is asparagus time and we just can't get enough of it. I love asparagus - but this is really the only time of year that you can get it fresh and it's a short time. 

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We pick up a couple pounds a week and eat it in all different ways while we can. I love simple roasted asparagus as a side dish, but I also love to incorporate it into main dishes and breakfast. Asparagus pairs perfectly with eggs and bacon. So when I was flipping through Jamie Oliver's Jamie at Home (still one of my favorite cookbooks ever) and saw his beautiful zucchini carbonara I was inspired to make a similar dish with asparagus. 

I also picked up some fresh pastured eggs and cream at the farmer's market, some high quality bacon, and used fresh oregano from my herb garden. This dish was truly delicious and decadent. While it may not be classic carbonara, that's OK with me - it was pretty spectacular! 

This recipe will make a lot of pasta and is best eaten right away - it will serve at least four people. Serve it with some fresh crusty bread to pick up any sauce at the bottom of your bowl.

Penne and asparagus carbonara with a loaf of crusty bread.

Penne and asparagus carbonara
olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. asparagus, woody ends removed and cut into about 1-inch pieces
3/4 lb. bacon, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 handfuls freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
4 large egg yolks (find the freshest and most high quality eggs you can)
1 lb. penne pasta
1 tablespoon freshly chopped oregano, plus more for garnish

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Toss the asparagus with some olive oil, salt, and black pepper. Place on a baking sheet in a single layer. Roast for about 5-7 minutes, flipping them once, until they are fork tender and golden. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Cook the penne in salted boiling water until al dente. Drain, reserving about one cup of pasta water. Mix together the cream, egg yolks, one handful of Parmesan, and a pinch of salt in a medium bowl using a fork. Set aside.

Meanwhile, cook the bacon until crisp in a large skillet with a bit of olive oil. When it is finished, drain off most of the fat. Add a few grinds of black pepper (you want a bit of a "kick") and the asparagus to the skillet. 

Now you have to work quickly and carefully here to make sure your sauce doesn't scramble. Once your pasta is drained, add it to the skillet along with the oregano and toss well. Remove it from the heat and set it on the counter or table. 

Add a ladle of your cooking water along with the sauce and stir quickly and thoroughly. Stir in the remaining handful of Parmesan. If your sauce is too thick, stir in a bit more cooking water. The sauce should be smooth and glossy.

Eat immediately. Serve topped with extra oregano.

Serving penne and asparagus carbonara.


  1. I love asparagus in pastas. This looks great!

  2. Oh, what a fantastic idea! I love that you added asparagus to your carbonara! Totally delish!

  3. Ooh, this looks SO good. I could go for some right now!

  4. Pasta and asparagus! Two of my favorite things, I love this dish!

  5. This penne looks good with the aspapragus!

  6. I've made asparagus carbonara before and it is so great! The perfect use of my favorite spring stalk.

  7. Yum! This dish is screaming my name. It looks wonderful.

  8. Yum - this sounds wonderful. I tend to cook my asparagus either steamed or roasted so this is a lovely way to ring the changes.

  9. I recently made carbonara with asparagus too - I agree that while it is not traditional, it's still a pretty awesome pairing!

  10. YUM! my friend is growing asparagus and I will just have to "borrow" some for this dish!!

  11. I make similar dish so I can tell this is delicious! It's perfect dish for a busy weeknight dinner. :)

  12. Carbonarra is one of my faves--so easy to put together, and so classy! My one thing is that it's so heavy, but adding the fresh burst of asparagus is a great touch.

  13. This looks really good, I am loving recipes with asparagus lately as they are in season and make every dish so very delicious!

  14. That's a wonderful variation of the classic carbonara.
    You are so right Amy, asparagus time is short and there is nothing better than the fresh one. It's a perfect combination with pasta.

  15. I love asparagus with pasta. What a fabulous spring meal!

  16. That is my kind of pasta dish! I love all of those flavors; classic, perfect! P~


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