MAINS/ SPRING/ SUMMER

Pancetta Asparagus Pasta with Artichoke Hearts

Hello and welcome to Djalali Cooks. I have been excited to try the newest pasta shape, Cascatelli, since it first came out in 2021 and I finally found it at Trader Joe’s. It is (and has been) available online since its debut, but it was always sold out! Shaped and named for “waterfalls” Cascatelli is said to hold on to sauces better than any pasta out there. Today’s recipe is perhaps not the best first use of this unique waterfall shape, because we don’t have a true sauce. But I will say that Cascatelli did not disappoint. Let’s do it: Pancetta Asparagus Pasta with Artichoke Hearts.

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Pancetta, Shallots, Asparagus and Artichoke Hearts

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Let’s get everything prepped. About half a bunch of asparagus will do for this recipe. Cut the rough ends off the asparagus and then chop the asparagus into roughly 1/2-inch pieces. We will drain, rinse and quarter the artichoke hearts. Let them sit and dry off on a couple paper towels. Slice a few shallots thinly.

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Get 4 quarts of water going in a large pot over high heat, cover the pot. Meanwhile we can cook the onions and the pancetta. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet with high sides, like a braiser, and add the shallots. Cook while stirring over medium heat until the shallots are softened.

Add the diced pancetta and cook until the pancetta is cooked through, and it’s light pink and opaque. Then add the asparagus.

Sauté the asparagus, shallot and pancetta mixture until the asparagus just begins to tenderize and turn brighter green. Then reduce the heat to low and add the quartered artichoke hearts.

Season with a little kosher salt and black pepper and stir to combine. While that is keeping warm on low heat, let’s toast some panko for a crunchy, toasty topping.

Toasted Panko Topping

Add a drizzle of olive oil to about 1/3 cup of panko bread crumbs. Stir to coat the panko in the olive oil, adding a little more as needed. In a dry skillet over medium-low heat, toast the panko. Add a sprinkle of kosher salt and shake the pan to evenly toast the panko. When it’s mostly golden, remove from heat.

Cascatelli Pasta

By now, the pasta water should boiling. Remove the lid and add 2 tablespoons of kosher salt. Give it a stir and pour in the pasta. Set a timer for 8 minutes. We want to cook the pasta al dente. So start checking its doneness at the 8 minute mark. When it’s done to al dente, scoop out 1 cup of the cooking water and drain the pasta.

Add the cooked pasta to to the skillet with the artichoke, pancetta and asparagus mix. Pour on a little pasta water and stir to combine the mixture and coat everything in the pasta water. Sprinkle on a pinch of red pepper flakes and drizzle on some olive oil.

Stir to combine and add about 2 tablespoons of ground parmesan cheese. Stir again to mix in the cheese and cut the heat.

Sprinkle the toasted panko over the top and sprinkle on some fresh parsley; we are ready to serve!

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While the flavors and textures are spot on, I will say that the Cascatelli pasta did break up a little bit with all the stirring. Some of the ruffled edges separated from the shape. So ultimately, this pasta shape does better with minimal stirring. But this is an easy dish to switch out the pasta – try spaghetti, bucatini, macaroni, or rigatoni.

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Pancetta Asparagus Pasta with Artichoke Hearts

It’s hard to beat the pancetta, asparagus, artichoke heart combination, no matter what type of pasta you use for this (possibly a controversial statement to pasta purists, but I am ok with that). The fresh snap of the asparagus; chewy, savory pancetta with the shallot; juicy artichoke heart; throw in a little parmesan, red pepper flakes and top it with toasted panko it all works together so beautifully with bouncy, chewy pasta.

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Thank you all so much for stopping by today! I have many pasta recipes perfect for spring and summer: check out Pasta and Sugar Snap Peas with Burrata or Easy Peanut Noodle Salad. Take care and be well, xo Kelly

Key Equipment Used in This Recipe

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Pancetta Asparagus Pasta with Artichoke Hearts

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Dinner, Main Course American/Italian
By Kelly Djalali Serves: 2-4
Prep Time: 15 Minutes Cooking Time: 15 Minutes Total Time: ~30 Minutes

Pasta, snappy asparagus, savory pancetta, shallot, juicy artichoke heart, a little parmesan, red pepper flakes, topped with toasted panko.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. Olive Oil, plus more for drizzling over pasta
  • 3 Shallots, sliced thin
  • 4 oz. Diced Pancetta
  • 1/2 Bunch Asparagus, ends trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 14-oz. Can of Artichoke Hearts, drained, rinsed cut into quarters
  • Kosher Salt and Black Pepper, to taste
  • 16 oz. Cascatelli Pasta, or spaghetti, bucatini, macaroni, or rigatoni
  • Pinch of Red Pepper Flakes
  • 2 tbsp. Ground Parmesan Cheese
  • 2 tbsp. Rough Chopped Fresh Parsley, for garnish
  • Toasted Panko
  • 1/3 cup Panko Bread Crumbs
  • Drizzle Olive Oil
  • Pinch of Kosher Salt

Instructions

1

Get 4 quarts of water going in a large pot over high heat, cover the pot. Meanwhile heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet with high sides, like a braiser, and add the shallots. Cook while stirring over medium heat until the shallots are softened.

2

Add the diced pancetta and cook until the pancetta is cooked through, and it's light pink and opaque. Then add the asparagus.

3

Sauté the asparagus, shallot and pancetta mixture until the asparagus just begins to tenderize and turn brighter green. Then reduce the heat to low and add the quartered artichoke hearts.

4

Season with a little kosher salt and black pepper and stir to combine. While that is keeping warm on low heat, toast the panko.

5

Add a drizzle of olive oil to about 1/3 cup of panko bread crumbs. Stir to coat the panko in the olive oil, adding a little more as needed. In a dry skillet over medium-low heat, toast the panko. Add a sprinkle of kosher salt and shake the pan to evenly toast the panko. When it's mostly golden, remove from heat.

6

By now, the pasta water should boiling. Remove the lid and add 2 tablespoons of kosher salt. Give it a stir and pour in the pasta. Set a timer for 8 minutes. We want to cook the pasta al dente. So start checking its doneness at the 8 minute mark. When it's done to al dente, scoop out 1 cup of the cooking water and drain the pasta.

7

Add the cooked pasta to to the skillet with the artichoke, pancetta and asparagus mix. Pour on a little pasta water and stir to combine the mixture and coat everything in the pasta water. Sprinkle on a pinch of red pepper flakes and drizzle on some olive oil.

8

Stir to combine and add about 2 tablespoons of ground parmesan cheese. Stir again to mix in the cheese and cut the heat.

9

Sprinkle the toasted panko over the top and sprinkle on some fresh parsley; ready to serve!

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  • Mari
    May 12, 2022 at 8:44 am

    What fun to see a new pasta shape. I vaguely recall hearing about it, but I haven’t seen it yet. Suburban Baltimore is not the end of the universe until it comes to finding something new. Oh well, it gives us something to look forward to in the meantime I will make this with my favorite pasta! Asparagus sounds so right for this time of year. It sounds perfect anytime, but with spring finally bursting forth, asparagus’ time has come. I can’t say any time is wrong for ar5ichome hearts or pancetta either. Thank you for another lovely, delicious recipe. Happiest of Thursdays to Kelly, Alex, Terry, Beth and those clever canine BFFs. 😊🌷☔️

    • Kelly Djalali
      May 12, 2022 at 9:00 am

      You’re so right, Mari; Asparagus is always delicious, but in the Spring, it’s especially wonderful. It’s hard to beat this combination – no matter what pasta is in the mix. Give it a go, I am sure you will enjoy it! Have a great Thursday, xo Kelly

  • Terry
    May 12, 2022 at 10:13 am

    Good morning, here in north cal at Safeway I have been getting this pasta from barilla. I love those lil ruffles. I’ve been using it when I make pasta Alfredo with shrimp Yumm. I can see it looks great in this recipe as well. I will be making this soon I’ll keep you posted have a great Thursday to all 🤗❤️Mom

    • Kelly Djalali
      May 12, 2022 at 11:08 am

      Hi Mom, I bet what you’ve been getting is Campanelle, which also has ruffles but is a trumpet shape, rather than Cascatelli’s waterfall shape. Cascatelli is only made by Sfoglini, but it seems Trader Joe’s obtained licensing from the inventor to make their own, which is apparently slightly different than the original. The world of pasta is an interesting place, Lol! I love Campanelle, it’s one of my favorite shapes! xo Kelly

  • Terry
    May 12, 2022 at 3:14 pm

    Haha you are so right darn it thought I stumped ya oh well it’s one if my favs we are making this tonight with langstino but I don’t have hearts so we are switching out and doing langstino instead I’ll keep you posted

    • Kelly Djalali
      May 13, 2022 at 7:59 am

      Hi Mom, langostino is great! I love it in the mac and cheese, so I am sure it will be a great swap in for this recipe! xo Kelly

  • Barbara Lacy
    May 12, 2022 at 9:33 pm

    I made this pancetta asparagus pasta tonight to go with our grilled pork chops. I couldn’t find pancetta so I cooked up diced bacon instead. This is delicious and my husband said this is a keeper!

    • Kelly Djalali
      May 13, 2022 at 7:57 am

      Hi Barbara, I am so happy to hear this one is such a hit at your house! Diced bacon is the perfect swap for pancetta, it sounds wonderful! Thanks so much for writing in to let us know! Have a great weekend, xo Kelly

  • Catherine
    May 12, 2022 at 11:51 pm

    This makes my mouth water. I’d use GF pasta.

    • Kelly Djalali
      May 13, 2022 at 7:58 am

      Hello Catherine, I am sure you will enjoy this one. What’s your favorite GF pasta? I would love to try it! Have a wonderful weekend, xo Kelly