Penne with Asparagus, Proscuitto and Lemon

January 21, 2010

Author Notes: This is my adaptation of a dish from the fabulous "Al Forno" restaurant in Providence, RI. The key to it's success comes from cooking it in a large enough pan to hold all the pasta in a very thin layer. This allows the pasta to cook to al dente, and the asparagus to just cook through in a short amount of time in a very hot oven. The flavors of the lemon, tarragon, proscuitto and asparagus marry perfectly....don't expect any left-overs.Oui, Chef

Serves: 8


  • 1 pound penne rigate
  • 3/4 cup pecorino romano cheese, freshly grated
  • 3/4 cup fontina cheese, freshly grated
  • 3 tablespoons ricotta cheese
  • 1-1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup rich chicken stock (2 cups good quality low-sodium stock, reduced by half)
  • 1 bunch asparagus, washed, dried and root ends trimmed
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, finely minced
  • 5 ounces thinly sliced imported prosciutto, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and a few grinds of white pepper
  • 1/3 cup seasoned breadcumbs
In This Recipe


  1. Preheat oven to 500 ?.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta.
  3. For the breadcrumbs - in a saute pan heat 2 tablespoons EVOO over medium heat and toast 1 cup of panko breadcrumbs, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper until golden brown.  Spread on a plate to cool.  (Keep the balance for 2 days in the fridge, or a long time in the freezer).
  4. In a large bowl, combine the cream, reduced stock, lemon zest, tarragon, cheeses, salt and pepper.
  5. Slice the asparagus on an extreme bias, about 1/8-1/4” thick and toss into a small bowl with the melted butter, mix to coat.
  6. Boil the pasta for 4 minutes, then drain and toss into the bowl with the cream and other ingredients, mix well.
  7. Pour the pasta into a large baking dish or roasting pan so that it fits comfortably in a thin layer no more than 1” deep. Sprinkle the sliced asparagus and chopped prosciutto on top and toss it into the oven for 10-12 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling, and the pasta is just starting to brown.
  8. Remove from the oven and serve, passing breadcrumbs to sprinkle on top if desired (highly recommended).

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