Looking for a light Spring pasta with all the flavors of the season? Ham and asparagus spring pasta is loaded with tender mushrooms, chewy-sweet sun dried tomatoes and a creamy lemon sauce. This is a meal worth savoring.
This pasta and asparagus dish was inspired by all the fresh spring produce in the markets right now — and the current contents of my refrigerator. A bit of leftover ham from Easter, a few stalks of asparagus, a package of mushrooms, and half a jar of sun dried tomatoes… Call me crazy, but it sounded like a good combo and if you’re a fan of ham and asparagus, I think you’ll agree. This spring pasta with creamy lemon sauce is ALL THAT.
Before we get started cooking, I should warn you that this spring pasta isn’t a one-pot meal. It’s a 3-pot/pan dinner, so if your kids haven’t taken over dinner cleanup duty yet, you might want to save this one for the weekend. (If your kids chores include doing the dishes — then you absolutely want to make this — and make ’em work for their allowance) Now you know — I’m the mean Mom.
What You Need For Ham and Asparagus Spring Pasta
- Asparagus (blanched/shocked)
- Button Mushrooms (sautéed)
- Yellow Onion (sautéed)
- Broth (Vegetable or Chicken – preferably low sodium)
- Half and Half
- Lemon Zest
- Shell Pasta (or other pasta varieties) (cooked)
- Diced Ham
- Sun-Dried Tomatoes
- Parmesan Cheese
- Salt & Pepper
- Fresh Basil (optional)
- Fresh Parsley (optional)
Making Spring Pasta with Creamy Lemon Sauce
- Get the pasta started, so it’s ready to go as soon as the sauce is complete.
- Trim the asparagus stalks of the tough bottom portion. The best way to determine this is to pick up a stalk of asparagus holding it at the half way point and the bottom of the stalk. Bend the asparagus until it breaks. The bottom portion is the tougher portion and can be discarded. Line up the rest of the asparagus on a cutting board and trim the remainder, using the broken stalk as a guide.
- Cut the tender stalks into 1″ pieces.
- Blanch and shock the asparagus. If you’re not familiar with those terms, it just means that you bring a pot of water to a boil, add the asparagus and cook until it’s just tender (2-3 minutes). Then use a slotted spoon or spider to transfer the cooked asparagus to an ice bath (ice and water in a bowl). This stop the cooking and keeps the asparagus that beautiful bright green color. If you skip this step, the asparagus will continue cooking and won’t look as appetizing.
- Saute the mushrooms in olive oil until tender and transfer to a small bowl.
- Saute the onions in the pan until tender, then add the butter and flour, stirring until you have a bubbly paste — about 1 minute.
- Stir in the broth and heat to boiling (stirring constantly) until slightly thickened and saucy. Add the half and half and lemon zest and stir to combine – this is the creamy lemon sauce — it’s not overpowering but rather, light and fresh.
- Stir in the cooked pasta, followed by the grated cheese until the pasta is coated.
- Next come the add-ins. Add the asparagus, ham, cooked mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes and mix to combine.
- Finish the ham and asparagus spring pasta with a final sprinkle of cheese and fresh herbs (if using). Serve.
If you’re looking for fresh spring flavors after a winter of rich stews and heavy meals, you’re going to appreciate this ham and asparagus dish. The creamy lemon sauce lightly naps the pasta and is just creamy enough without being too thick or rich. My taste testers didn’t leave an ounce of this for leftovers — in fact, there was curiously little conversation once the diners had filled their plates… Too busy eating to talk.
Want more variations? Switch up the ingredients, by swapping cooked diced chicken for the pasta or frozen peas for the asparagus. That’s good eating.
Shells with Ham, Asparagus and Lemon Cream
Creamy and bright with fresh asparagus, peas and chunks of savory ham!
- 1/2 pound asparagus trimmed, cut into one inch pieces
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 8 ounces button mushrooms wiped clean, sliced into bite size pieces
- 1 medium yellow onion diced
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 1/2 tablespoon flour
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
- 1/4 cup half and half
- 1 lemon zested
- 1/2 pound shell pasta cooked to al dente
- 1 cup ham diced
- 1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes diced, drained if oil-packed, reconstituted and drained if dried,
- 1 cup parmesan cheese grated
- salt and pepper to taste.
- 1 tablespoon fresh basil chopped, optional
- 2 tablespoons fresh italian parsley chopped, optional
- In a medium sauce pan, boil 2 cups of water. Add asparagus and cook for 3-4 minutes until crisp tender. While asparagus blanches, fill a medium-sized bowl with ice and water. Drain asparagus and plunge into the ice water to stop the cooking.
- Fill a 3 quart saucepan with water and a pinch of salt. Heat to boiling. Add shells and cook until al dente according to package directions.
Meanwhile, In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add mushrooms and cook until lightly browned. Transfer mushrooms to a bowl. Add onion to the pan and cook until lightly browned. Add butter to the pan and melt over medium high heat. Stir in flour and until well combined and no dry bits of flour remain, stirring for one minute until bubbly.
Add broth a little at a time, stirring constantly. Cook until mixture begins to thicken and takes on the consistency of a sauce. Stir in half and half and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper.
Add vegetables and pasta to the sauce and heat through. Stir in 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, basil and parsley and stir to combine.
Use remaining parmesan as a garnish.
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