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Penne with Asparagus, Olives & Parmigiano Breadcrumbs

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Serves 4

  • by Maryellen Driscoll from Fine Cooking
    Issue 85

Need a time saver? Make the breadcrumbs ahead and store them in a sealed container. Also, you can just snap rather than cut the asparagus into 2-inch pieces. 

  • Kosher salt
  • 5 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil; more for drizzling
  • 1 cup coarse fresh white breadcrumbs (from about 4 slices of bread, crusts removed)
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/2 lb. penne rigate
  • 1 lb. medium asparagus, woody ends snapped off, cut diagonally into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 medium clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pitted Kalamata olives (about 20)
  • Finely grated zest of 1 medium lemon (about 1-1/2 Tbs. loosely packed)
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil.

In a 12-inch skillet, heat 3 Tbs. of the oil over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and cook, stirring occasionally, until they’re crispy and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl and stir in the Parmigiano and a pinch of salt. Wipe the skillet clean with a paper towel.

Cook the pasta in the boiling water until al dente. Reserve a few tablespoons of the cooking water and drain the pasta.

Heat 1 Tbs. of the oil over medium-high heat in the skillet. Add the asparagus and cook, stirring frequently, until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Lower the heat to medium low and push the asparagus to the side. Add the remaining 1 Tbs. oil and the garlic and cook, gently mashing with the tip of a wooden spoon or spatula until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Toss the garlic with the asparagus. Remove from the heat.

Stir in the olives and lemon zest, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the pasta to the skillet, stirring to blend. Add enough reserved cooking water to slightly moisten, as needed, and drizzle with olive oil to enrich. Serve garnished with the breadcrumbs.

Serving Suggestions

Serve with a simple Classic Caesar Salad.

nutrition information (per serving):
Size : based on four servings; Calories (kcal): 470; Fat (g): 24; Fat Calories (kcal): 210; Saturated Fat (g): 3.5; Protein (g): 11; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 16; Carbohydrates (g): 53; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 3; Sodium (mg): 790; Cholesterol (mg): 0; Fiber (g): 4;

Photo: Scott Phillips

Very good and easy. I've made this several times. I usually add more olives than called for in the recipe but that's just a matter of personal taste. I also cannot imagine why one would use spray oil when cooking this. A good fruity olive oil adds flavor.

Made as written - can't imagine using pan spray vs. a good olive oil, and certainly wouldn't rate the recipe as bland, especially if I didn't follow it :-). Easy to make, delicious, and flavorful when made with quality ingredients. I would definitely make it again.

I followed the recipe as written, but used spray oil to cut down on the calories. I found it to be a little bland. I added a squeeze of lemon juice and that was a huge improvement. If I made this again I would cut down on the amount of pasta and have more asparagus/olives/garlic.

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