Pasta Primavera with Asparagus and Ham

The Italian word “primavera” means “spring” in English, consequently, “Pasta Primavera” is a simple dish combining seasonal spring vegetables with pasta and a light sauce.

This recipe pairs penne with asparagus, peas, ham and a sauce flavored with onion, garlic, fresh thyme and a touch of cream.

Pasta Primavera with Asparagus and Ham

Pasta Primavera with Asparagus and Ham

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

A light, flavorful pasta dish made with penne, asparagus, peas, ham and light sauce flavored with onion, garlic, fresh thyme and a splash of cream.


  • 10 ounces penne
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup onion, chopped
  • 3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 to 1-1/2 cups diced ham
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 3/4 lb asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup frozen peas
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Pasta water (if needed)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • Parmesan cheese for grating


  1. Put a large pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until soft and translucent, 3 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, 1 minute longer. Stir in the chicken broth and vinegar and bring to a slow simmer.
  4. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Reserve about 1/4 cup of the hot cooking water, then drain the pasta and set aside.
  5. Add the ham, mustard, and thyme to the onion-garlic mixture and cook for 1 minute.
  6. Add the asparagus (see recipe notes) and continue cooking, stirring often, until the asparagus is tender and the liquid has reduced by about half, 4 to 6 minutes longer.
  7. Add the peas, season to taste with salt and pepper, then stir in the cream and reduce the heat to low.
  8. Add the pasta to the sauce mixture and combine well. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.
  9. If you feel the sauce isn't coating the pasta adequately, add the reserved cooking water in 1 tablespoon increments until you are happy with the consistency.
  10. To serve, plate individual servings, sprinkle with fresh parsley and top with freshly grated cheese.


To cook the asparagus evenly and avoid overcooking the tips, add the stems to the pan first, cook for 2 to 3 minutes (depending on their thickness), then add the tips.