Penne with Asparagus, Smoked Mozzarella, and Cherry Tomatoes

— by Chef Luigi Diotaiuti

This quick weeknight pasta dish is a delicious and elegant first course for any occasion. Be sure to use a good quality smoked mozzarella, because it is the main ingredient of the dish. Smoked mozzarella has a lot of advantages, because it lasts for a long time and can be added to sandwiches, soups, stuffing, and pasta. It’s a great addition to anything that you’d like to enrich and enliven.

Full recipe after the jump.

  • 1/8 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 16 asparagus stalks, steamed for 1 minute and sliced
  • 8 ounces smoked mozzarella, cubed
  • 8 basil leaves
  • salt
  • 1 pound penne rigate
  1. Heat 1/2 of the olive oil in a large wide skillet, over medium heat. Add garlic, and cook just until it releases its aroma and begins to turn blonde-colored. Add cherry tomatoes and asparagus and stir to coat.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. As soon as the water boils, add a pinch of salt. Add penne, stir, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook for 10-13 minutes, or until al dente.
  3. Drain the pasta. Add it along with a few tablespoons of the pasta-water to the vegetable mixture. Add in smoked mozzarella, and toss well to combine and melt the mozzarella. Once the mozzarella is melted, tear the basil leaves into the dish, and stir well to combine.
  4. Drizzle the remaining half of the olive oil over the pasta, to add shine and extra flavor to the dish.
  5. Plate immediately and serve hot.

Italian Cooking Tip: You can use smaller pieces of fresh asparagus if you prefer. Just trim the stalks and cut 1-inch pieces on the bias and add into the recipe — sauté until tender before going to the next step.

Chef Tip: this is a great recipe for kids to help prepare, especially finicky kids who don’t want to eat vegetables. This fun and easy recipe lets kids have the fun of creating a meal that they will love to eat.

Copyright Luigi Diotaiuti, 2013, reprinted with permission.


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