Penne, Dried Tomatoes, Asparagus & Prawns Recipe

An Italian pasta recipe that’s easy to prepare and tastes old country authentic. I’m particularly fond of this recipe because when I serve it to Italian visitors they always remark that it’s  just like home, or mom’s and you can’t get a better complement then that. A few caveats are called for and the first concerns olive oil.  You should stock you pantry with at least two different grades, the first for cooking should be a pomace and the second the best most expensive you can afford as a condiment. The “good” olive oil is the one you drizzle on cooked, meats and vegetables while the pomace is used for sautéing.  If you haven’t experienced a few drops fine, good quality virgin olive oil as a condiment on you favorite recipes you don’t know real Italian food.  The same applies to your grated cheese … buy the best you can afford and stay away from the ground “Kraft” variety that often has a lot of fillers, just remember it’s as important and any center of the plate protein.

As to fresh versus dried pasta unless you a true gourmet, and I don’t even put myself in that category, it’s virtually imposable to tell the difference except for imported versus domestic categories of dried pasta.  The imported is much more to what I’ve become accustomed too so of course I favor it. As too sun dried tomatoes it’s best if don’t think of them as a gourmet item their simple a frugal Italian means of preserving the tomato crop no more no less so don’t gush and pontificate about them. Their cheaper if you but them bulk in a pillow pack but much more convenient if buy them packed in oil. Using the oil pack means that the oil in the jar can be used as a condiment and you then replace it with olive oil to cover and you’ll always have a nice flavored oil on hand. Asparagus of course has to bee fresh and for those of you not into carbon footprints it’s available year round if you just must satisfy your craving for some grass.  I also use something you’ll see listed as “chicken powder”, which is granulated Asian chicken base, and I use in lieu of salt.  It also has some MSG in it but so does Parmesan and just about anything else you purchase ready to use, like spaghetti sauce, in the market.  Also in my home kitchen I always have chicken stock made from scratch but use of the afore mentioned chicken powder can act as a replacement.

In this construct I usually make a small stock out of the prawn shells that is added to finish the cooking process.

Penne, imported, cooked for two or more

A splash of cooking olive oil for the pan

6  Ounces, cleaned prawns

6 Ounces fresh asparagus sliced on the bias, nuked for 60 seconds

2 Ounces, about 6, oil packed sun-dried tomatoes, Julienned

1 Tablespoon minced garlic

4 Ounces of Shrimp, or chicken stock …water & base              

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

To taste chicken powder

4 Tablespoons minced Italian, broad leaf, parsley

To taste, but use a lot, pre or freshly grated Parmesan

Freshly grated black pepper


  1. Get you pan really smoking hot
  2. Add olive oil to coat, then prawns all at once, watch the flash!
  3. Add the microwaved asparagus, cook till firm
  4. Add the julienned tomatoes and garlic and toss for 1 minute
  5. Add the shrimp or chicken stock, reduce for 1 minute
  6. Add the butter and mix well
  7. Season with chicken powder to taste and parsley and mix
  8. Remove from heat and plate
  9. Top with freshly grated Parmesan and black pepper


You can buy a section of imported Parmesan and then use a potato peeler to make nice shreds of cheese at the table to impress your guests or palate. I also like a sprinkle of dried red peppers for heat or sometimes add just a touch of chipotle pepper puree for a spicy and smoky nuance.