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Penne Rosa

I had Penne Rosa at Noodles and Company once, and it was then I realized I had to make something similar as quickly as possible. Two months later (yes, that was “as quickly as possible”), I stormed into the grocery store, demanded their entire stock of basil, and made a delicious dish. How similar it is to Noodles and Company, well, I just can’t say: let me remind you that I only had it once, didn’t take notes, and then let two months pass me by. But regardless, it’s fresh and perfect and I loved every bite. I mean, white wine and cream? As I’ve said before and I’ll say again until I draw my final breath, you can’t go wrong with those two things. Oh, and there’s garlic. I’m sorry, excuse me while I step to the side and faint dead away. I love that stuff.


1 lb penne pasta

4 TBS oil, divided

6 cloves garlic, minced

1 bunch asparagus, chopped

8 oz sliced mushrooms

1 c heavy whipping cream

1-28 oz can diced tomatoes

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

3/4 c white wine

1 tsp brown sugar

3 cups fresh basil leaves, torn

Salt and pepper to taste

Parmesan, for sprinkling

Put your pasta water on to boil. I used mini penne, which boasted a super quick cooking time. I bought it mostly because it was cute, but I also thought it would mingle with the sauce better than its larger counterpart. Here’s the whole happy group together:

Roughly chop your asparagus on the diagonal (after removing the tough ends). This way of cutting it adds surface area to the pieces, which means more spots hit the pan/oil, which in turn adds flavor. Or maybe I’m just making that up.

Heat 2 TBS oil in a pan or pot. When hot, add the asparagus and fry for about 3 minutes. Add salt and pepper.

The asparagus will be bright green and crunchy after those 3 minutes–it’s the right time to remove it.

You don’t want to keep cooking it since it will later rejoin the sauce. If you cook it for too long up front, we’re talking a green mushy mess later.

You’d better have your garlic chopped by now–in this dish, I like it slivered instead of minced. The cooking time takes the edge off of the garlicky flavor, so encountering a larger chunk or slice is actually quite a pleasant experience.

Heat the remaining oil in the same pot over medium high heat. Add the garlic and mushrooms, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often so that the garlic doesn’t burn. 

Add salt, pepper, and the red pepper flakes while it’s cooking.

The brown bits. Oh, the brown bits. I would lick them out of the pot if it didn’t mean cooking my own tongue in the process.

Add the wine, and cook for about 3 minutes, scraping the bottom to make sure all those brown bits get incorporated, loved, and assimilated.

Now, add the tomatoes.

Cook over high heat for 15 minutes, until reduced by half. You don’t want a watery sauce, so let it boil away aggressively. Add the brown sugar somewhere along the line.

Your (salted) pasta water should boil somewhere along the way . . . so get that goin’. Just look at those precious little noodles!

Now, add the cream to your sauce. Cook for another 5 minutes over medium high, letting the sauce thicken.

Please try to avoid drinking the whole concoction at this point. My mamma taught me that patience is a virtue . . . but one little spoonful can’t hurt, right? Mamma?

During the last minute of cooking, add the asparagus back in. A couple of my basil leaves snuck in too, but for the rest of you, hold those back for one more minute.

Now, take the sauce off the heat–trust me–and add the basil. I added half the basil at this point, and half after it was served into individual bowls. You don’t want to basil to cook and wilt–it’s best in this dish when it’s fresh, green, and as crunchy as it can be.

Once your pasta is cooked and drained, dump it into the pot with the sauce and mix it all together. You know what’s happening in that pot? One big lovefest.

Serve and sprinkle with parmesan, or parmesan shavings if you want to feel fancy. 

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