Orecchiette Carbonara with Asparagus — 2nd Easiest Weeknight Dinner

orecchiette carbonara with asparagus

Hello there. Just a quick midweek post here. Thought I’d share with you all how I’ve made my favorite easy weeknight dinner both more and less involved.

Let me explain. Adding asparagus to pasta carbonara adds about a minute more to your prep time but precludes the need to make any other sort of vegetable side dish — 3/4 of a pound of asparagus, for me at least, is enough roughage for one evening.

So there you have it. Fry some bacon. Sauté some onions. Cook some pasta. Blanch some asparagus. Whisk some eggs. Zest a lemon. Toss it all together, and watch how a no-cream light-on-the-cheese sauce transforms a simple pasta into a creamy-tasting, vegetable-loaded, one-dish dinner. Yum.

orecchiette and eggs

drained asparagus and orecchiette

carbonara in bowl

carbonara in pan

Pasta Carbonara
Source: Everyday Food

Coarse salt and ground pepper
6 slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces
4 leeks* (white and light-green parts only) or spring onions*, halved lengthwise, rinsed well, and thinly sliced
3/4 pound short pasta, such as campanelle or orecchiette
3/4 pound of asparagus, ends trimmed
2 large eggs
1/2 ounce Parmesan, grated (1/4 cup), plus more for serving (optional)
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest, plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, coarsely chopped (optional — I didn’t use them this time around)

*If you don’t have leeks or onions, any onion will do — finely chop about a half cup or more of whatever onion you have on hand.

1. Set a large pot of salted water to boil. In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat from skillet. (I did not pour off any fat… it looked too good to discard.) Add leeks, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring often, until leeks are golden brown, about 10 minutes.

2. Add pasta to pot and cook according to package instructions. Meanwhile, cut asparagus into 1.5- to 2-inch long pieces. In the last three minutes of the pasta cooking time, drop the asparagus into the pot of water. Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking liquid.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, Parmesan, and lemon zest and juice. Whisk 1/4 cup pasta water into egg mixture.

4. Drain pasta and asparagus and immediately add to egg mixture, along with bacon, leeks, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Sprinkle with more cheese if desired and serve immediately. Note: If you’re nervous about the egg not cooking, just throw the whole mixture back into a large skillet over medium heat for a minute or two.

orecchiette carbonara with asparagus


  1. says

    Zach and I love this carbonara. Ever since I first spotted it on your blog it has been a staple for those nights when I just don’t feel like it. Asparagus sounds like a good addition. I tend to add whatever is floating around in the veggie drawer/freezer – green peas? great throw them in! Half a bag of spinach? In it goes. It is my “kitchen sink” dish. Lovely photos as always Ali!

    • says

      Talley — I’m so happy to hear this! It’s so true — you could throw anything in this dish and it will taste good. My friend sent me a similar recipe that calls for broccoli and anchovies… so delicious!

  2. says

    Love the recipe!Always beautiful to see a pasta recipe that respects all the principals of the italian cuisine including the one that pasta should be served immediately! I always cook pasta when everybody is already sitting at the table! Wonderful photos!

  3. Jennifer Hill says

    Love carbonara and love asparagus…and LOVE the idea of getting that serving of veggies in the main course for one less dish to prepare! :) Can’t wait to try it!

    • says

      Alicia — zucchini sounds wonderful! I can’t wait till we start getting it in our CSA. I love slicing the zucchini really thinly and tossing it with hot spaghetti — you don’t even have to cook it. Love it!

    • says

      Jeanne — I bet it will work just fine without the bacon. The sauce from the eggs and the cooking liquid and lemon juice is ample to coat the pasta, so it might just need (as you say) some more salty goodness — anchovies? parmesan? I hope it turned out well for you!

  4. Teresa Moffett says

    I made this tonight and it was/is FAB…FAB….FAB! No, kidding…flavors blend wonderfully well…I love it and so do the others diners at my house….Thank you!!

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