Here’s a delicious and easy Italian recipe for pasta with asparagus and peas. It’s a wonderful pasta dish that uses a light alfredo sauce to coat the vegetables. And what makes it even better is that by the time your pasta is done cooking, the asparagus and peas should be ready as well!
Sometimes when I am craving pasta, I’m not always in the mood for a typical tomato or garlic sauce. I want something a bit more… elegant and bright. This is one of those recipes.
In fact, it’s very flexible and like many of my recipes, I encourage you to experiment and have fun with it.
Pasta with Asparagus and Peas
The combo of the asparagus and the peas goes very well together in many cuisines, especially Italian. One of the things I love about these types of recipes is that you can use fresh or frozen vegetables, such as in my pasta and peas recipe. For this particular recipe I’m using frozen bags of both asparagus and peas that I had on hand.
I also added some frozen zucchini I had saved a few months ago and added that in as well, however you can omit the zucchini if you want. Just increase the amount of asparagus or peas to compensate. So when I said earlier that this recipe is flexible, I meant it!
About the Sauce
Just a quick note about the sauce. I use a very low cal version of alfredo, well… at least in comparison to other recipes. I cut back on the butter, I use whole milk instead of heavy cream and I only use enough cheese to get the results I want.
I also use a dash of lemon juice to brighten the sauce, which I love. This is not typical of a traditional alfredo sauce, but I love it. I use this similar sauce in my pasta with lemon and asparagus recipe.
This recipe produces just enough sauce to coat the pasta, asparagus and peas. This way their flavors don’t get buried in a sea of alfredo.
This type of pasta recipe with the cream sauce is more common of northern Italian cuisine. And in fact, some alfredo recipes don’t use cream at all, just butter and cheese. This is called a butter sauce or burro fuso which I read about in La Vera Cucina Italiana, one of the cookbooks in my collection.
Here are the ingredients of what you’ll need for making this pasta recipe. Specific quantities are in the recipe below.
- Pasta. Short pasta with ridges to catch the alfredo. Some options are penne, rigatoni, or as I used, small mini-shells.
- Unsalted Butter. The butter which is often used in northern Italian cuisine adds a nice richness to the dish. There is no olive oil or even garlic used in this recipe. For a creamier texture, increase the butter, but I don’t think it’s necessary.
- Milk. I like to use whole milk instead of heavy cream. I think it is healthier and serves the same purpose even though it’s a slight departure from the traditional use of cream. Feel free to substitute if you want.
- Fresh Lemon Juice. If you don’t have this, you can omit it.
- Romano or Parmesan Cheese. Either cheese will work, just make sure it is grated. The parmesan won’t be as sharp. I’m a sucker for Romano however.
- Asparagus. You can use frozen or fresh asparagus, just make sure that if using fresh that the tough ends are removed and the stems cut in 1 inch lengths.
- Peas. Use frozen sweet peas for the best flavor.
- Zucchini. This is optional, but I recommend using if you have it. It’s not often found in freezer sections although I’ve seen it. If using fresh zucchini then cut it in half moon slices, 1/4 inch thick. I’m actually using zucchini I froze a few months ago that I didn’t want to waste.
Pro Tip: If you use a smaller pasta shape such as penne or farfalle, the cooking time is much faster than shells or rigatoni. So account for that when making the pasta. If your pasta is done early, reserve some of the pasta water and then drain the rest – leaving just a little in the pot so the pasta doesn’t clump.
How to Make Pasta with Asparagus and Peas
So let’s get started making this pasta dish!
The first step is to cook the pasta by bringing a pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and give it a stir. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions and reserve one cup of the pasta water before draining.
In a small saucepan, start cooking the peas. I like to cook the peas first in their own saucepan. I find that depending on the brand, frozen peas can vary in cooking times. The last thing you’d want is to have uncooked peas! Once cooked, drain and keep in pan.
Next, in a large saute pan over low-medium heat, cook or steam the asparagus, along with the zucchini, if using it. This will only take about 5 minutes. Add some water to start the steaming process if needed. Don’t worry if it’s a little watery since we’re making a sauce anyhow.
When the asparagus is tender and the zucchini is cooked, transfer to the saucepan with the peas to keep warm. We’ll need the same saute pan to make the sauce next, so don’t clean it yet.
Start by adding 2 Tablespoons of unsalted butter to the pan over low heat, and let it melt – coating the bottom of the pan.
Add the milk and juice to the pan. Stir and combine.
Add the cheese a little at a time, stirring constantly to fully blend. Then add a little more, stir, and repeat. Keep stirring so it doesn’t clump; if it does don’t worry, it will still taste great.
Add in the vegetables and stir to coat well.
Then add in the pasta shells and stir so the sauce coats the asparagus, peas, pasta and zucchini. If it is too dry, add some of the reserved pasta water which will help loosen and thin the sauce.
Top with some cracked black pepper if you want.
You’re now ready to eat! Check out my side dish suggestions below.
It takes only 20 minutes to prepare the entire dish. By the time the pasta is done cooking, the vegetables should be ready to use.
Yes, the basic principle of using the alfredo sauce can be used with other vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, and zucchini.
Use short pasta that has ridges such as penne, shells, or rigatoni. The ridges will help keep the sauce from sliding off.
Yes, this recipe uses frozen vegetables, specifically asparagus and peas.This makes it convenient to prepare spring-like recipes during off season months.
Storage and Reheating
Like many of my pasta recipes, this one is no different in that it can be stored in the fridge using an air tight container for up to 3 or 5 days. I do not recommend making and freezing this dish ahead of time. It is best when cooked fresh.
To reheat, all you need is a saute pan or skillet. Add the pasta with the peas and asparagus to the pan over low-medium heat. Add a ¼ cup of water and use a spoon to separate the pasta which has probably formed a clump while in the fridge.
Use the water to help loosen the clump, then stir to cause the sauce to thin and loosen. Cover and steam for 5 minutes or until heated through.
Side Dish Recipes
Here are some side dishes that go well with pasta, asparagus, and peas.
This authentic Italian green beans recipe goes great with any type of pasta. You can grow your own or use frozen Italian green beans. It’s an easy recipe and you’ll love it.
Learn how to make stuffed mushrooms full of Italian flavor that will complement this dish wonderfully!
If you want a refreshing side dish, try some bruschetta Pomodoro. They also make a great appetizer.
Check out more Italian side dishes here.
Similar Recipes to Pasta with Asparagus and Peas
If you love this type of pasta recipe, check these out as well. You can save them to your Pinterest or bookmark for later!
Here’s a great recipe that uses a similar white sauce but with chicken. Check it out in my Pasta Alfredo Con Pollo recipe.
My pasta with lemon and asparagus is so simple and uses long pasta instead of short. You’ll love it!
I hope you enjoyed my Pasta with Asparagus and Peas recipe as much as we do here in our house. Enjoy and be sure to comment below and let me know your feedback or if you made any changes to make it your own!
Pasta with Asparagus and Peas
- 1/2 lb mini-pasta shells This is about 2 cups
- 1 cup frozen sweet peas
- 1 cup frozen chopped aspragus you can also use fresh
- 1 cup sliced zucchini cut in half moons
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
- 1 cup reserved pasta water
- Bring a pot of water to boil and add your pasta. Cook according to package instructions.
- If pasta is done before the sauce, reserve 1 cup of pasta water and drain the pasta. Set aside.
- In a small saucepan, cook the frozen peas. Drain when done.
- In a large saucepan over medium heat cook the asparagus and zucchini for 5 minutes until tender. Add 1/4 cup water to create steam to cook the vegetables. Make sure not to burn as we are not using olive oil in the pan.
- When fork tender, remove from pan and set aside by adding them to the drained peas.
- In the same large saucepan over low heat, melt the butter and coat the bottom of the pan.
- Slowly add the milk and lemon juice. Stir until combined.
- Add the cheese, a little at a time, stirring constantly. Do not stop stirring.
- Add the vegetables into the pan and stir to coat them with the sauce.
- Add the cooked pasta, and stir to fully coat. Use some of the reserved pasta water if the pasta appears dry.
- If using a smaller pasta like penne, the serving size may increase to 4. Since mini-shells take up more volume 2 cups is enough for 2 people or more depending on how much you serve.
- This is not a runny or thick alfredo. As you’ll see in my images, this is a very light sauce that clings to the pasta and vegetables.
- For quicker cooking pastas such as penne, be prepared to drain and set aside early.
- You can use either Romano or Parmesan cheese. I prefer Romano but use what you have.
- Feel free to add in other vegetables, similar to a pasta primavera.