Pasta con asparagi e gamberi

Frankpasta, primi piatti38 Comments

Pasta con asparagi e gamberi

If you’re looking for a quick and easy pasta dish, pasta con asparagi e gamberi, or Pasta with Asparagus and Shrimp, will certainly fill the bill. The asparagus and shrimp cook in the time it takes for the water to come to the boil and the pasta to cook. Dinner (or lunch) will be on the table in 20 minutes or less!

Quick and easy as this dish is, you won’t be compromising on flavor. The asparagus and shrimp complement each other perfectly, one of those pairings that was just meant to be. Pasta con asparagi e gamberi is versatile, too. Perfect for a quick family meal, its elegant appearance makes it equally suitable as the primo piatto for an elegant dinner party. And its meatlessness makes it a fine choice both for pescatarians and those observing the Lenten fast.

So, my friends, here’s one dish you will definitely want to add to your repertoire.

Ingredients

Serves 4-6

  • 500g (1 lb) penne or other pasta (see Notes)
  • 400 g (14 oz) thin asparagus, cut into short lengths
  • 200 g (7 oz) medium shrimp, raw and peeled
  • 1-2 shallots, finely minced
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • A dab of butter (say 1 Tbs)

Directions

Put a large pot filled with water on to the boil.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet or braiser, sauté the shallot gently in olive oil. Add the cut up asparagus and let it sauté as well for a minute or two, seasoning with salt and pepper as you go. Now pour in a cupful or so of water, enough to almost cover the asparagus, cover and let the asparagus simmer until they are tender and most but not quite all of the water has evaporated.

Add your pasta and a good pinch of salt to the pot. Cook until al dente.

Just a minute or two before the pasta is done, add the shrimp to the asparagus, raising the heat and tossing the shrimp with the asparagus. Cook only until the shrimp have just turned pink. (They’ll cook some more in the next step.)

When the pasta is done, transfer it to the skillet, along with a small ladleful of the pasta cooking water and, if using, the butter. Toss everything together over a lively flame until the asparagus and shrimp are well mixed with and cling to the pasta. Taste and adjust for seasoning.

Serve immediately.

Penne con asparagi e gamberi

Notes

Penne is an ideal choice for pasta con asparagi e gamberi. It mimics the shape of the asparagus, which I like to cut to about the same length as the pasta as well. You could use similar short pasta shapes like caserecce or strozzapreti, or larger ones like rigatoni. For a more elegant presentation, farfalle (bow ties) or a fresh ribbon shaped pasta like tagliatelle or pappardelle would do nicely. Truth be told, the asparagus and shrimp condimento would work nicely with just about any pasta shape you fancy.

As for the asparagus, the young, tender and slender variety works especially well here. It cooks quickly and its slender shape pairs well with penne and other short pasta shapes. But you could use thicker asparagus if that’s what you can find. Just make sure to trim the stalks of their woody bottom ends and peel off their tough skins starting just below the tips. They’ll also need a bit more simmering time.

As for the shrimp, opt for medium or even small ones, as they need to cook quickly. Larger shrimp are better for main courses, grilled or fried. For this rendition of pasta con asparagi e gamberi, I used medium shrimp, which to my mind are the ideal size. (For US readers, about 50 count.) Shrimp this size cook quickly, but without much risk of overcooking. (There’s nothing in my opinion quite so offputting as overcooked shrimp!) Frozen, peeled shrimp is works perfectly fine, but do make sure they are fully defrosted.

Pasta con asparagi e gamberi is one of those pasta dishes that neither needs nor wants grated cheese. But if you’re one of those people who can’t imagine pasta without grated cheese, do use a young parmigiano-reggiano. A stronger cheeses like pecorino romano would absolutely ruin it.

Variations

It’s a little more fuss, but if you’d like a creamier version of pasta con asparagi e gamberi, you can take about half of the cooked asparagus and purée it in a blender or food processor with a ladleful of the pasta water (or, if you’re feeling extravagant, cream) before returning it to the skillet and simmering it for a few minutes more. In fact, in some renditions all but the tips of the asparagus are puréed, making for a super-creamy version.

Some recipes add another layer of flavor to the dish by calling for broth—either vegetarian or fish based—instead of water for simmering the asparagus. If you’re working with whole, unpeeled shrimp, you can use the heads, tails and shells to make your broth. In some versions, a splash of white wine goes over the sautéed asparagus to evaporate before adding the water or broth.

For a more elegant presentation, hold back some of the asparagus tips and/or the shrimp and use them to top each serving. In fact, if you really want to get fancy, you could sauté the shrimp separately and use them as a garnish. This separate cooking has the added advantage that you can make sure the shrimp are cooked just to the right degree.

Pasta con asparagi e gamberi

Pasta with Asparagus and Shrimp
Total Time20 mins
Course: Primo
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: quick

Ingredients

  • 500g 1 lb penne or other pasta
  • 400g 10 oz thin asparagus cut into short lengths
  • 200g 7 oz medium shrimp raw and peeled 
  • 1-2 shallots raw and peeled 
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • A dab of butter (about 2 Tbs)

Instructions

  • Put a large pot filled with water on to the boil.
  • Meanwhile, in a large skillet or braiser, sauté the shallot gently in olive oil for a minute or two. Add the cut up asparagus and let it sauté as well for a minute or two, seasoning with salt and pepper as you go. Now pour in a cupful or so of water, enough to almost cover the asparagus, cover and let the asparagus simmer until they are tender and most but not quite all of the water has evaporated. 
  • Add your pasta and a good pinch of salt to the pot. Cook until al dente. 
  • Just a minute or two before the pasta is done, add the shrimp to the asparagus, raising the heat and tossing the shrimp with the asparagus. Cook only until the shrimp have just turned pink. (They'll cook some more in the next step.)
  • When the pasta is done, transfer it to the skillet, along with a small ladleful of the pasta cooking water and, if using, the butter. Toss everything together over a lively flame until the asparagus and shrimp are well mixed with and cling to the pasta. Taste and adjust for seasoning. 
  • Serve immediately. 

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38 Comments on “Pasta con asparagi e gamberi”

  1. We had this for an early dinner this evening and think it is wonderful. It’s already on the favorites list. Your method of getting the shrimp perfectly cooked is genius.

  2. Frank – I bought the asparagus at the farmers market this morning (it’s a great year for asparagus here!) and we are having this tomorrow evening! Love it – and thanks so much for the recipe!

  3. We made this the other night and enjoyed it. We felt, however, that some garlic and a bit more salt was what we needed to add. I am on a low salt diet, but even I felt salt was needed. The saucier version may be what we will try net time. Thanks again for the recipe.

    1. Well, everyone’s salt tolerance is different. I’m quite the salt fiend and yes, for dish like this you do need to go a bit heavy on the salt. The saucy version is also very nice but, of course, not quite a quick or as light. I enjoy both!

  4. Pasta with Asparagus and Shrimp, what a nice and simple combination. Better get to the supermarket now, its the last few batches of asparagus for us before autumn kicks in

  5. Delicious !
    When seeing the cooked pasta I thought it was too much vs the asparagus/shrimp ratio. So, I used only half of it which, to me, was the right call.
    I also sauteed the shrimps separately in white wine and red pepper flakes with a squeeze of lemon.
    Topped with some chopped parsley.
    Perfect 🙂
    Thank you for the inspiration.
    Will cook again.
    ps: traveling to Italy in May. Can’t wait !

  6. I love how simple and straightforward this recipe is – perfect for weeknight cooking! And this recipe is perfect for this time of the year when asparagus is so tender and flavorful! I like the idea of blending some of the asparagus, but I’m sure I would enjoy this recipe either way. Thanks for sharing, Frank!

  7. We eat lots of pasta, lots, of shrimp and lots of asparagus but I wouldn’t have thought of combining the three together so I thank you for the inspiration Frank. It will be a Sunday meal soon.

  8. However much this dish beckons me with a come-hither look it can only arrive on the table in five months – here in Australia we hardly notice the seasons as far as produce is concerned but asparagus and artichokes arrive at the end of Augusu . . . and that is that 🙂 !!! Love its simplicity . . . cannot wait to taste . . . the glass of wine will be waiting !!!

    1. Ah yes, that’s the funny thing about presenting these seasonal dishes when the season are reversed in the southern hemisphere! But I’m happy to hear that the seasonality of produce is still respected in Australia. Here you can find asparagus year round (imported, obviously, out of season) and I don’t like it. Asparagus in the dead of winter? It just seems wrong!

  9. Really, really good stuff. Love dishes like this that are short on time-to-make, but long on pleasure-on-the-tongue. Superb — thanks.

  10. I can tell that this is authentic traditional dish is flavorful, but I need a little something more. A little sauce or something. I’m 60% Italian, but obviously an American!

    1. If you feel you need a sauce, then I’d suggest the variation mentioned in the notes, where you purée the asparagus (or part of it) in broth or cream, which produces a proper sauce. Actually I have such a recipe already (sans shrimp) which you can find here which provides more details. It’s also delicious, but of course a bit richer and not quite as quick and easy as this version.

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