Spring Penne Pasta

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. 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.

Spring Penne Pasta

What To ServeCorn 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

Yield: Serves 6

Spring Penne Pasta with Light Butter Sauce


  • 1 pound penne pasta
  • 12-16 ounces fresh asparagus spears, hard ends trimmed, spears cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 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


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Recipe Source: adapated from Cuisine at Home, April 2012

22 Responses to Spring Penne Pasta with Light Butter Sauce

  1. shellice maraccini says:

    I am surprised that I was the last to comment. This was so good I am making it again tonight. This time omitting the artichoke and adding zucchini. It is the perfect summertime dinner. And as your first comment on this thread stated, don’t ever apologize for pasta. In fact, I wish you would add MORE pasta dishes to your repertoire. :]

  2. Shellice M says:

    This was perfect for dinner. I went to the store and got all of the ingredients to serve this up for dinner and it didn’t disappoint. So many ways it can be adapted as well. But when I make your recipes for the first time, I like to follow it exact. DELISH!

  3. Jenna H. says:

    Oh Mel, this was sooo good! The flavor combo was perfect and light, so ideal for a spring or summer meal. My five-year-old twin boys ate it right up! Thank you so much for sharing it. It’s a new favorite.

  4. Tiffany says:

    I made this on Monday. Everyone loved it! Even the kids! So fresh and light. We ate the rest the next day. Left overs were still great. Def adding into my dinner rotations.

  5. AWalden says:

    Looks great! Makes me wanna head to the store and get the ingredients now!

  6. Naomi says:

    This was SO GOOD! I couldn’t stop eating it. Bonus-my kids loved it too!

  7. I love a light, lemony pasta dish for spring and your Mediterranean additions with the asparagus, olives and artichokes is just perfect. Great recipe, Mel. Thanks for sharing!

  8. This looks great! I can always count on you for a dinner idea! Thanks!

  9. Wow! This dish just screams Spring – yum!

  10. Amy says:

    I tried this recipe concept tonight and I really liked it! I didn’t want to go to the store, so I used broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, and green onions for the veg. I didn’t have any lemons either. But it tasted great with what I had on hand! Thanks for all the great ideas!

  11. Amanda says:

    You crack me up Mel! You are such a good writer. Love you and thinking of you with your new little beauty coming!!!

  12. Kim says:

    Thanks so much for posting something springy…I’ve been looking for something a little lighter. (-: Hope you stay comfortable these last days of your pregnancy.

  13. Rachel Moody says:

    I have most of this stuff (shallots/chives/parley) growing in my garden! I’m going to wait a bit until they are ready to pick then do this one. I may be the only one eating it, but whatever! If your tastebuds are crazy don’t blame me, I’m only your mother 🙂

  14. Teresa says:

    Thank you thank you Mel! I have been looking for a great pasta recipe that would be a little different but is good to take to the park. Since I can’t have any mayonnaise or egg based dressing (allergy), this is absolutely perfect for me. Can’t wait to make it at my next picnic!

  15. Chris says:

    No need to apologize for pasta recipes – pasta is go-to food in our house. Such a springy-fresh dish, thanks for sharing!

  16. MaryBeth says:

    This looks amazing, so quick and easy but yet healthy and flavorful.

  17. heather bell says:

    Looks great!! So pretty too.=)

  18. Jackie Brown says:

    This looks so fresh and tasty; makes me ready for summer vegetables. Thanks, Mel

  19. Hey don’t apologize for the pasta recipes! Who doesn’t love pasta?? I love light fresh meals like this one during the cool spring and hot summer months. This looks divine and I’m printing this one. Would be great paired with a nice green salad and roll.

  20. Bex says:

    Love your pasta recipes, Mel, so please don’t stop them! I made your creamy garlic Alfredo sauce with penne pasta the other day and wow, what a fabulous recipe. I will make it again soon, and even husband, who is not a cheesy sauce lover, loved it! So, thanks!

  21. Kim in MD says:

    This looks absolutely delicious, Mel! I agree with StephenC- no apologies for pasta! My family could eat pasta every single day if I cooked it everyday. I love veggies, and this recipe sounds like it will be a favorite in my house! Well, to keep it real, my children will probably pick out the olives and artichokes. Otherwise, I think it will be a hit. Thanks for sharing!

  22. StephenC says:

    No need to apologize for pasta. Everyone (or nearly everyone) loves it and there are endless variations as to what one can do with it. And, let’s face it, vegetables are just doggone good for you.

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