Absorption pasta with asparagus, pancetta and lemon zest

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Prep time:

Cook time:

Serves: 4

By Mireowl



  • 2 tbsp olive oil

  • 960ml chicken stock

  • 1 lemon zested

  • 2-3 shallots finely sliced or 1/2 small onion, finely diced

  • 2 slices pancetta chopped

  • 1 bunch asparagus

  • 350g penne pasta

  • 115g feta


  1. Prepare the asparagus by snapping off the woody ends. Cut each stalk into angled pieces roughly the length and shape of the pasta. Keep the tips separate from the stalks once you have cut them, as you will add them to the pasta at different times later.
  2. Prepare the pancetta by putting olive oil in a saucepan with tall sides over medium-high heat (I use a 4-quart saucepan for this amount of pasta). Once the oil has heated up, cook the pancetta to render the fat and crisp it up. Remove from the saucepan and and set it aside.
  3. Add the sliced shallots to the pan and sauté until they start to soften, a minute or less. Add in the dry pasta and stir it around for 1 minute to coat it in the oil and shallots, toasting the pasta a little bit. Keep an eye on the shallots to make sure they aren't burning.
  4. Pour in 600-700ml of chicken stock and give it a good stir (the pasta should be nearly covered). Bring to a simmer and then reduce the heat to keep it from boiling. Cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. When the pasta is about half done, stir in the asparagus stalks. Stir more frequently for two minutes as the stock cooks away, careful not to break the pasta.
  6. You might need another splash of stock; you don't want the pan to dry out all the way. When the pasta seems to be getting close to done — test frequently! — add the asparagus tips.
  7. Cook another minute or 2, stirring constantly, until al dente. Since this dish holds the heat and the pasta keeps cooking a little once you've removed it from the heat, you should err on the side of less, rather than more, cooked.
  8. You should still have some thickened broth at the bottom of the pan; as you toss the pasta to season it this will coat everything and make it silky instead of sticky.
  9. Remove from the heat and stir in half of the pancetta and three-quarters of the lemon zest. Season to taste, but remember that you’ll be adding salty feta on top.

Handy Hint

To make this vegetarian/vegan, just leave out the pancetta/cheese and use good vegetable stock instead of chicken stock. All the pasta cooking times are approximate and will vary depending on the pasta you use. The amount of chicken stock you use will vary, so keep all four cups called for in the recipe on hand, however you may not use it all! To serve, top each portion with crumbled feta, pancetta, and lemon zest.

Additional Information

  • italian

  • cheese

  • bacon

  • asparagus

  • Pasta

  • Main Course

  • Nut Free

  • Egg Free

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