Penne Pasta with Asparagus, Pancetta and Cherry Tomatoes

Penne pasta with asparagus, tomatoes and pancetta
Penne pasta with asparagus, tomatoes and pancetta. Daniel Bendjy/Getty Images
Ratings (7)
  • Total: 17 mins
  • Prep: 5 mins
  • Cook: 12 mins
  • Yield: 2 pounds pasts (6 servings)
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
407 Calories
9g Fat
68g Carbs
14g Protein
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Here's another great quick and easy weeknight dinner idea: penne pasta (smooth or ridged -- rigate) tossed with asparagus, some crisp, smoky pancetta (or bacon), and juicy cherry tomatoes.

For a vegetarian version: substitute the pancetta with some summer squash or zucchini, sliced into half-moons.

If you have leftover grilled vegetables from a BBQ or backyard cookout, use those instead! It's a great way to turn them into another meal!

For bolder flavor: finely mince the garlic clove instead of crushing it, and leave it in. Substitute the parsley with fresh basil leaves. 

For a cold pasta salad version: rinse the pasta in cold water as soon as it's al dente, then drain and toss with the other ingredients. Using sun-dried tomatoes instead of fresh will help prevent the pasta salad from becoming soggy. For this version, definitely add a bit of olive oil when tossing the ingredients together, to prevent the pasta from sticking together in clumps, and I suggest using basil rather than parsley and using minced garlic that remains in the dish since dishes have less flavor when served cold.


  • 1 pound penne pasta
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (plus extra for serving)
  • 1 clove garlic (peeled & crushed with the side of a knife)
  • pound  asparagus (woody bottoms snapped off and discarded, the rest cut diagonally into approximately 2- to 3-inch pieces)
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes (cut in half if larger than about 1/2 inch in diameter, otherwise whole)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup smoked pancetta (pancetta affumicata) or julienned bacon (cut into thin strips about 1-inch long)
  • Optional: fresh parsley (finely chopped for garnish)

Steps to Make It

  1. Set a large pot of water, covered, to boil over high heat for the pasta. (When the water comes to a rolling boil, add 1 tablespoon of coarse sea salt or Kosher salt and once the water returns to a rolling boil, add the pasta and cook just to al dente texture.)

  2. Meanwhile, saute the garlic in 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet for about 1 minute over medium heat, then add the asparagus and tomatoes, and salt and pepper to taste.

  3. Continue to saute over medium heat, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, just until asparagus is tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove and discard the garlic clove. 

  4. Meanwhile, saute the pancetta or bacon in a separate pan until crisp, then drain on a paper-towel-lined plate.

  5. When the pasta is al dente, drain it well and return it to the pot. Add the asparagus-tomato mixture, the pancetta, and the parsley (if using) and toss well.

  6. Drizzle in a bit more extra-virgin olive oil, if desired, while tossing the ingredients together, then serve immediately.