Since our arrival in Paris several weeks ago, I’ve delighted in cooking meals for two –my husband and moi! The apartment we’ve rented is in a quartier filled with food shops. I can walk to the Bon Marché’s Grand Épicerie when I want to splurge on special ingredients. There’s an excellent cheese shop, a great charcuterie, and one of Eric Kayser’s boulangerie/patisserie outposts nearby. However, what I cook has to be simple because the kitchen in the apartment is ”petite!” Penne with Mascarpone, Fresh Peas, and Asparagus is a perfect dish to prepare in a small kitchen with limited equipment.
While the penne cooked in a pot of boiling water, it took me only a few minutes to trim and slice the asparagus and measure out the peas. During the last four minutes of the pasta’s cooking time, I added the vegetables to the pot so that both finished together. I also had enough time to quickly sauté some bacon lardons–an optional garnish.
After draining the penne, peas, and asparagus, I tossed them with mascarpone (which melts and becomes a sauce) along with some grated Parmesan. For serving, this colorful spring pasta is mounded in bowls and sprinkled with more Parmesan, snipped chives, and crispy bacon pieces. (The latter can be omitted if you want to keep this dish vegetarian.) Voilà! A delicious dinner for two that takes about 25 minutes to prepare. Oh, and this recipe can be doubled easily if you’d like to serve more! Bon appétit from Paris!
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Penne with Mascarpone, Fresh Peas, and Asparagus
6 oz (2 cups) penne
10 or more medium asparagus spears, tough ends removed, and spears cut on the diagonal into 1-inch slices to yield 3/4 cup
3/4 cup shelled peas
2 thick slices bacon cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces, optional
5 tablespoons mascarpone
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano Reggiano
Freshly ground black pepper
Two teaspoons chopped chives or flat leaf parsley
1.Fill a large pot two thirds full with water and set it over high heat. Bring to a boil and add penne and 2 teaspoons kosher salt. Cook according to package directions until pasta is al dente. Four minutes before the end of the suggested cooking time, add the asparagus and peas to the pot with the pasta.
2.While pasta is cooking, if you are using bacon, add it to a medium, heavy skillet set over medium heat. Sauté until pieces are crisp and golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to drain on paper towels.
3.When pasta and vegetables are done, drain the mixture in a colander, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid. Return the penne and vegetables to the pot and toss them with the mascarpone to coat well. Add half of the Parmesan and toss again. If mixture seems too thick, stir in 2 to 3 tablespoons of the reserved pasta water. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
4.To serve, mound penne and vegetables in two shallow bowls (heated if possible). Garnish each serving with a sprinkle of the remaining Parmesan, chives, and bacon if using. Serves 2.
Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2023