If you love lightly sauced pasta dishes with flavorful ingredients, then this spring penne pasta with light butter sauce is the dish for you.

I kind of sort of feel like I should apologize for all the pasta meals I’ve been posting lately. But ethically, I can’t apologize because they are each so delicious in their own right that I don’t want to be held accountable to the food police for not sharing them all with you.

White bowl with cooked penne pasta, asparagus, tomatoes, olives, and chicken strips.

I can guarantee, however, that in the next coming weeks, you’ll get a reprieve from all things pasta. And don’t blame me if you go through pasta withdrawals.

Whenever I make a meal, I usually have someone in mind that I know will love it. Like, it could become their signature meal. In this case, it’s my mom. She’s a vegetable gal. Always gets the veggie sub when we eat at a sandwich place and has been known to stink up her house boiling cabbage and then eating it by the bowlfuls with a little vinegar on it (sorry, mom, that I couldn’t ever get around to the cabbage trend).

When I was loading up this pasta dish with asparagus, tomatoes, olives and artichokes, I knew it would be a homerun with my mom.

Sadly, since she lives half a country away, I wasn’t able to share it with her (and I have a feeling it wouldn’t ship well) so instead, I’m going to put it on the menu when she comes out in a week to help with all things baby. And better yet, I’ll even offer to do the cooking while she chases after the five little rugrats. I’m generous like that.

Chock full of vegetables and tender chicken, the pasta is lightly coated with a simple butter and broth sauce, made complete with a splash of fresh lemon juice and sprightly fresh herbs.

This dish is definitely more about the pasta and ingredients than it is about the sauce – so if you are the type that enjoys a little pasta with your sauce (ahem, hello, dear husband), then this may not be for you.

But if you love lightly sauced pasta dishes with flavorful ingredients and a lot of components to compliment the pasta, then this is the right dish for you.

One of the best check marks in favor of this pasta dish is that it tastes wonderful warm. Fantastic at room temperature. And absolutely divine when pulled out of the refrigerator the next day and eaten cold. Now that’s a versatile pasta.

White bowl with cooked penne pasta, pieces of asparagus, cherry tomatoes, olives, and chicken slices.

What To Serve With This:

Corn on the Cob or Summer Corn Salad
Cottage Cheese
Sweet Berry Bruschetta (for a light, spring or summer dessert)

One Year Ago: Penne with Roasted Asparagus and Balsamic Butter
Two Years Ago: Philly Cheesesteak Calzone
Three Years Ago: Glazed Mini Meatloaves


Spring Penne Pasta with Light Butter Sauce

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  • 1 pound penne pasta
  • 12-16 ounces fresh asparagus spears, hard ends trimmed, spears cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 ½ pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, (about 2-3 medium)
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 3 large garlic cloves, finely minced (for about 1 tablespoon total)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, from about 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 (14-ounce) can quartered artichoke hearts
  • 1 (6-ounce) can black olives, halved
  • Shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for garnish


  • Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the penne pasta and boil according to package directions. Add the asparagus to the pasta and boiling water for the last 3 minutes of cooking. Drain the penne and asparagus.
  • While the pasta is boiling, lightly season the chicken breasts on each side with salt and pepper. Grill the chicken (alternately you can broil in the oven or saute in a skillet with 1 tablespoon olive oil) until cooked through, about 4-6 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the chicken. Remove the chicken to a plate and let it rest for 5 minutes before slicing into strips.
  • In a 10 or 12-inch skillet (if you used a skillet for the chicken, wipe it out quickly and use it here), melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat and add the shallots and garlic. Saute, stirring often, for 2-3 minutes, until the shallot is soft. Stir in the chicken broth and simmer the mixture until it has reduced to about 1 1/2 cups, anywhere from 6-12 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and add the remaining butter, a few cubes at a time, swirling the pan to melt before adding more. Stir in the lemon juice, chives and parsley. Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Transfer the pasta and asparagus to a large bowl or pot. Add the tomatoes, artichokes and olives. Pour the sauce over the top and toss to coat. Serve the pasta with slices of grilled chicken and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
Serving: 1 Serving, Calories: 689kcal, Carbohydrates: 70g, Protein: 39g, Fat: 28g, Saturated Fat: 8g, Cholesterol: 93mg, Sodium: 1495mg, Fiber: 8g, Sugar: 7g

Recipe Source: adapated from Cuisine at Home, April 2012