Parmesan Pasta with Asparagus

Parmesan Pasta with Asparagus
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Parmesan Pasta with Asparagus

Parmesan Pasta with Asparagus

This is my go-to dinner when I am rushed or just don't feel like spending a lot of time in the kitchen. The veggies can easily be swapped out for any flavor combo you like. I've made it with red peppers and onions or zucchini or peas. It's a great way to use up whatever veggie you have on hand.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 3
Calories 685kcal
Author While It's Cooking



  • 8 oz orecchiette pasta
  • 2 tbsp Kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups asparagus sliced into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 medium leeks white only
  • 1 medium shallot thinly sliced


  • ½ cup Parmesano Reggiano grated
  • cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp garlic minced
  • 1 tbsp basil finely chopped
  • ½ tsp course ground black pepper
  • ¾ cup reserved pasta water


Cook the Pasta

  • Boil water with the kosher salt and cook the pasta according to the pasta directions. When the pasta is done, ladle out 1/2 cup of the starchy pasta water and set aside. You will use that for the sauce.
    Pasta water is liquid gold in my kitchen. When mixed into a sauce, it helps the sauce cling to the noodles. I freeze it in 1/2 cup portions in freezer safe ziplock bags. When I want to make a dish using zucchini or butternut squash noodles instead of pasta, I defrost the reserved pasta water and use it for the sauce. Voila! Note: The starchy pasta water does contain gluten, so don't do this if you are serving to someone with a gluten allergy).

Cook the Veggies

  • While pasta is cooking, slice asparagus on an angle into 1/2 pieces.
    Parmesan Pasta with Asparagus & Leeks - veggies
  • Chop the root and green part off the leeks so you are left with just the white stalk. Slice the stalk in half lengthwise and discard the outer two layers of leeks (I find them to be a bit tougher and harder to chew). Slice the leeks into thin slices and then separate the pieces and rinse thoroughly (dirt gets in between the layers on leeks and they need to be cleaned and rinsed well).
  • Peel the skin off the shallot and discard. Thinly slice the shallot.
  • Heat oil in medium size pan and add asparagus and leeks. Saute until asparagus is tender, but not mushy. Remove pan from heat and set aside until pasta is finished cooking.
  • Heat oil in medium size pan and add asparagus and leeks. Saute until asparagus is tender, but not mushy. Remove pan from heat and set aside until pasta is finished cooking.

Prepare the Sauce

  • Combine all the ingredients except reserved pasta water in large bowl. Work ingredients together with the back of a wooden spoon until a thick paste forms.
    Parmesan Pasta with Asparagus & Leeks - sauce prep
  • When the pasta is almost finished cooking, ladle 1 cup of the pasta water into a measuring cup. Slowly drizzle into the cheese paste, mixing until smooth.
    Parmesan Pasta with Asparagus & Leeks - sauce
  • When the pasta is cooked until al dente, strain and add to the cheese sauce. Using your wooden spoon, stir vigorously for about 2 minutes. The stirring will release additional starch and the sauce will emulsify (if you notice your sauce is clumping, drizzle in a little more of the reserved pasta water). After about a minute and a half, you'll notice the watery mixture has turned into a sauce.
  • Stir in the vegetables and sprinkle with additional Parmesano Reggiano. Enjoy!


Make it a Meal...

This dish goes wonderfully with a light Caesar salad.
Parmesan Cheese

While It's Cooking...

Did you know that the Credem Bank in Italy takes young parmesan cheese wheels from local producers in exchange for cheap loans?  The bank stores the cheese in its own warehouses with state-of-the-art climate controls and a staff of trained inspectors.  Cheese producers are saved from having to outsource the storage of their cheeses (which is 36 months for the best cheeses) and, because the banks warehouses and inspections are top of the line, the degradation of these cheeses is only about 1% (compared to an industry standard of 10%).  Cheese producers can use the loan to invest in their business, and the bank has the cheese as collateral should the producers default on their loan.  
The warehouses store 430,000 wheels of cheese and their inventory is valued at approximately €190 million.


Calories: 685kcal | Carbohydrates: 67g | Protein: 19g | Fat: 39g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 11mg | Sodium: 4932mg | Potassium: 446mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 1347IU | Vitamin C: 10mg | Calcium: 252mg | Iron: 4mg
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While It's Cooking

I love cooking. Always have. As a busy mother of two young kids, oftentimes the best time I have to pick up a cookbook or explore a new idea is while food is cooking. Sometimes I use that time to explore more about the meal I am preparing - the food, the traditions, the culture. Sometimes I use that time to figure out what I'm going to cook next and delve deeper into ingredients and techniques to experiment with. Usually while I'm cooking my family leaves me alone in the kitchen and I can enjoy a rare moment to myself. One of my favorite times of the day is "While It's Cooking."

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