Asparagus season means one thing: this penne with roasted asparagus and balsamic butter goes on the menu ASAP! It is incredibly delicious, SO fast and simple, and a huge family favorite.
I’m full of quick announcements today! 1) Join me on Facebook Live tonight (Monday) at 8:00 p.m. MST; I’ll be announcing the winners of the KitchenAid + Chatbooks photo contest! 2) This coming Wednesday (3/22) at at 11:40 a.m, I’ll be doing a fun segment on Good Things Utah (making a quick trip to SLC from Idaho!). You can watch the segment online (scroll down and click on GTU Recipes) to see the deliciously amazing cookies (with an Easter/spring twist) I’ll be whipping up.
It is so divine.
And it definitely falls into the category of those recipes that are so much more than a sum of their parts.
Taken as a list at face value, you may be wondering what the big deal is about penne + roasted asparagus + balsamic + butter + Parmesan.
All of those ingredients are simple and, well, somewhat plain, but doctor them up just a little, throw them together, and you have an incredible pasta dish absolutely bursting with flavor.
Plus, this penne pasta is so easy, you’ll probably want to go ahead and grab a stack of old-fashioned notebook paper so you can start making a list of all the things you can do with the time you saved making dinner.
I know food bloggers get a lot of eye rolling directed at the overuse of “best ever” and “my favorite” and all that, but I’m sorry, I’m just going to say it:
This penne with roasted asparagus and balsamic butter is one of my favorite pasta dishes of all time.
I actually feel quite liberated admitting that out loud. I even added it to the Best Recipe page. It deserves to be there.
I’m reminded of how much I love this penne pasta every single spring when tender, fresh, tasty asparagus starts popping up in stores, and we commence several months of eating this fast and easy penne dish very, very frequently (as in, sometimes, weekly isn’t often enough).
My kids love this stuff. And Brian and I are right there with them.
It’s delicious warm. It’s delicious cold (if there even happen to be any leftovers). It’s delicious right in the middle at room temp, too.
And there’s more.
This penne pasta with asparagus and balsamic butter makes a fabulous main dish (sometimes we add grilled chicken, but it doesn’t really need it), and it makes an equally fabulous side dish or pasta salad for a potluck.
Are you catching what I’m trying to say here?
You really can’t mess this one up. It’s versatile and ridiculously delicious.
I kid you not, I stock up on Costco-sized bags of asparagus just because of this pasta, and I have finally decided to plant asparagus along our whole irrigation ditch line this year since asparagus has a talent for growing wild and free without a lot of maintenance.
Basically, I love asparagus. I love pasta. I love balsamic reductions (you probably caught that memo from this balsamic pork post). And I love butter.
If you do as well, you’ll loooooove this penne pasta dish.
One final note: please seriously consider browning your butter. It just might change your life.
That is all.
If asparagus isn't in season (or you don't like it), try broccoli or even cauliflower cut into bite-size pieces, and roast it per the recipe.
If you want to take this to a whole new level, brown the butter (quick and easy tutorial here) before adding it to the pasta.
- 1 to 2 pounds fresh asparagus spears
- 1/2 to 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon coarse, kosher
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon light or dark brown sugar
- Pinch of black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse, kosher salt
- 1 pound penne pasta, regular or whole wheat
- 4 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces (see note above about browning the butter)
- 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Snap the tough lower ends off the asparagus and discard them. Cut the asparagus spears into 1-inch pieces. Place the asparagus on a large, rimmed baking sheet and toss with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast until tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.
- While the asparagus roasts, add the vinegar to a small saucepan. Simmer over medium heat until the vinegar is reduced to about 3 tablespoons, about 5-10 minutes.
- Stir in the brown sugar, pepper and salt. Remove from the heat.
- Cook the penne in a large pot of lightly salted boiling water until al dente (or desired tenderness), according to package directions. Drain the pasta and return to the pot.
- Add the butter and toss with the pasta until the butter is melted and the pasta is evenly coated.
- Add the vinegar reduction. Toss to combine well. Add the asparagus and Parmesan; toss. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper, if needed.
- Serve immediately with extra Parmesan cheese, for serving, if desired.
Recipe Source: adapted from Food and Wine Quick From Scratch Pasta Cookbook
Recipe originally posted April 2011; updated with new pictures, recipe notes, and commentary.