I’m a big fan of less saucy pastas. I want to be able to taste the al dente noodles, and in this case the fresh crisp asparagus. Plus what more does really good pasta need other than cheese and some oil? This Rigatoni with Asparagus and Sun-dried Tomatoes uses lots of fresh and canned ingredients, so it’s a nice combination for these trying quarantined times we are in.
This dish is actually a play on one of the first recipes I ever made up myself! When I was a teenager, I made a pasta salad with feta, sun-dried tomatoes, pesto, and chicken. I was so proud of myself, and I wrote my recipe down on a recipe card. There’s something really fresh about the combination of these ingredients, so I made a newer pasta dish using these things.
In her book, Salt Fat Acid Heat, Samin Nosrat talks about layering salt, and I think this recipe practices this beautifully. Salt itself isn’t the only way to give a dish that salty flavor. In this dish, we use bacon, oil packed sun-dried tomatoes, feta, and parmesan cheese, plus fresh asaparagus for balance, to make for the most perfectly salted pasta dish. It tastes great with a few grinds of black pepper on top and a spoonful of freshly grated parmesan cheese. I love how the asparagus are just boiled with the pasta for the last minute, for that lovely tender-crisp crunch.
You’re going to love how easy this is to make, plus if you don’t have every ingredient, don’t sweat it! No sun-dried tomatoes? Try using capers! No feta? How about ricotta cheese? Or what if you added a splash of heavy cream to the sauce? If you’re a vegetarian, you can totally skip the bacon. Anything goes, so get creative! See the full recipe below.
- 4 tbsp olive oil, divided
- 3 slices of bacon or pancetta, diced
- 2 leeks, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup chopped oil packed sun-dried tomatoes
- 1 lb rigatoni or other short pasta
- 1 bundle of asparagus, cut into 2 inch pieces
- kosher salt and black pepper
- ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
- ¼ cup finely grated parmesan, plus more for serving.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.
- Meanwhile, in a dutch oven or large saucepan over medium high heat, add 1 tbsp olive oil. Add the bacon and cook, stirring frequently until the bacon is crisp and browned. Turn the heat down to low and add the leeks and cook, stirring, until leeks are softened and melted down, about five minutes. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil, and continue to cook, stirring here and there while the pasta cooks.
- Add the rigatoni to your boiling water and cook until just shy of al dente, about 10 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water. During the last minute of cooking, add the asparagus to the pasta water and cook for just one minute. Drain everything into a colander and immediately pour the rigatoni and asparagus into the saucepan with the leek bacon mixture.
- Add the crumbled feta and parmesan along with a half cup of pasta water and stir, cooking on low for a couple minutes until the cheese is completely melted and saucy. Taste for salt and add some generous grinds of black pepper.
- Serve topped with additional grated parmesan.