Quick and Easy Pasta Dinner
This creamy ham and asparagus pasta is the sort of meal that becomes a favorite. It’s a restaurant quality dinner that would keep you going back to the same bistro again and again just to enjoy it one more time. Good news… you don’t have to go anywhere but your kitchen!
What Pasta Shape Should I Use?
One of the best things about this recipe is that everything cooks in the time it takes to boil the pasta. That is, if you use a pasta that has a cooking time of ten minutes or more. I like to serve this on spaghetti because it usually takes about 12 minutes – plenty of time for me to get everything else cooked – and the long noodles are the perfect shape to take advantage of the creamy sauce. Whichever shape you choose, make sure to cook the pasta properly in lots of boiling salted water. (Click here to read more about how to cook pasta properly and how to choose a good pasta.)
How to Trim Asparagus
All asparagus is thicker at one end and that thick end can be more fibrous and tougher than the rest. Generally, you need to trim the bottom of asparagus stalks, but how much should you cut off? A good way to judge where the stalk begins to toughen is to hold the asparagus at both ends and bend it. It will break at a natural point where the more fibrous stalk begins. Use one stalk as your measure and cut the rest to match its length.
How to Cut Asparagus for Pasta
Even with the stalks trimmed, asparagus will be thicker at one end. To compensate for this gradual thickening, cut off the heads of the asparagus on the bias and then slice the remaining stalks into lengths getting smaller as the stem gets thicker. That will help the asparagus pieces to cook more evenly.
How to Cook Asparagus for Pasta
This recipe starts by sautéing the onion and then adding the asparagus pieces. Our goal is to cook the asparagus until it is tender, but maintain its beautiful green color. Give the vegetable a couple of minutes in the pan and then add some water, cover the pan and steam it until it is tender – about another 4 minutes or so. The water will evaporate and steam the asparagus perfectly.
To make the pasta sauce creamy and delicious, add the heavy cream. There’s no need to reduce the cream – just heat it until it has been warmed through and add your hot drained pasta to the pan. The pasta will continue to absorb liquid, so you will need to thin the sauce with some of the reserved pasta water to suit your tastes. If you wanted to make a lighter version of this recipe, you could omit the cream, add the pasta and loosen with some of the reserved pasta water. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil instead. It won’t feel quite as decadent, but it will still be delicious and one of the fastest pasta dinners you’ve ever made.