A second chance: asparagus and pancetta baked pasta

Asparagus and pancetta baked pasta

Asparagus and pancetta baked pasta

8 Servings

High school is over in our neck of the woods and last week we went to a graduation party of the son of one of our neighbors.

High school graduation ceremonies, proms and parties are totally new to us. In Italy, we do not have a graduation ceremony after our high school finals and, usually, there is no prom or party afterwards.

Asparagus and pancetta baked pastaYoung Italian girls and boys abruptly transition from being high school teenagers to wannabe adults 😉 at university (in the sense of postgraduate school, like Law School, Med School, etc.) without any particular celebration or event to be remembered by. We think it is kind of sad and we are starting to enjoy this American tradition thinking that, one day (far, far away in time! 🙂 ), Stefano and I will proudly be going to Her Majesty’s graduation ceremony. 🙂

Anyway, my neighbors really like this asparagus and pancetta baked pasta. So I decided to bring it to the party to put an Italian touch on their buffet. 😉

This dish was my first pasta post on this blog.  Looking back at the photo of the dish that I asked Stefano to take almost two years ago, I have to admit I wasn’t very pleased with my presentation. This pasta deserves so much better! 🙂

I have been wanting to retake the picture with a different setting for more than a year but I’m a very lazy person, some may go as far as to call me the queen of postponement! 😉

This graduation party was the perfect occasion to shake my royal status away, make this pasta again and work on a different presentation. I like this presentation much better than the old one and I hope you will agree with me.

To make your life easier in case you decide to give this dish a try, I decided to republish the recipe, so you won’t be driven crazy by links going back and forth!

Asparagus and pancetta baked pasta


2 lb asparagus
¼ cup extravirgin olive oil
¼ cup beef stock
1 lb of ¼ inch thick pancetta
7 cups of Bechamel sauce
2 cups each of two shredded cheeses of your choice (4 cups total)
1.6 lb dried ziti pasta (1 ½ packs)
1 cup grated Parmigiano cheese
Ground black pepper


Wash the asparagus spears and cut off the woody ends. In a large pot, heat some water until it boils, add the asparagus and keep boiling for 3-4 minutes. Strain the asparagus, rinse with cold water and cut into ¾ inch pieces. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat, add the asparagus, season with salt and pepper (to taste) and toss to coat. Add the beef stock and stir occasionally until the stock evaporates. Set aside.

Asparagus and pancetta baked pastaCut up the pancetta into small pieces and cook in a non-stick skillet until crispy. Wait for the pancetta to cool down and get rid of the grease. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta and cook until al dente, stirring occasionally.

While the pasta is cooking, put the shredded cheeses into the pot with the hot Béchamel Sauce and, over very low heat, stir until the cheeses are completely melted.

Drain the pasta and put it again into the pot.

In a 9×13 inch casserole, spread some of the sauce to keep the pasta from sticking. Save 2 cups of the sauce for later and add the rest along with the asparagus and the pancetta to the pasta and toss to coat. Put the pasta in the casserole, ladle the rest of the sauce that you had previously set aside over the pasta, spreading it evenly, and scatter the grated Parmigiano over it. Bake for about 20 minutes covering the pasta with aluminum foil for the first 10 minutes.

Let me know what you think!

F. Xx

Follow FsT on:

0 thoughts on “A second chance: asparagus and pancetta baked pasta

  1. Dina

    This presentation is brilliant! It looks very tasty and and appetizing, very nicely presented as usual, Francesca. I’ll have to save it for later though, as I’m still on a tiny diet, but nevertheless I enjoyed Stefano’s photos! 🙂
    Big hug,
    Dina xo

  2. laurasmess

    I have been so tempted to go back through some of my old recipes to retake photos (mostly as I had a terrible point and shoot camera in the early blogging days!). I love the fact that you’ve republished this with a new take on food styling… though of course, between your skills and Stefano’s I think there was nothing wrong with the first one. Love the asparagus arrangement – such creativity! The pasta sounds absolutely delicious xxx

    1. Francesca Post author

      Thank you, Laura! I think every blogger should go back through their old recipes. When you start blogging you have no idea what you are doing (at least this was the case for me! 😉 ) After a while, you get more confident and, above all, you understand what you like best and what your style is. If I could go back, there are countless things I would do differently. Life is an endless learning journey 😉

  3. Fig & Quince

    Hi hi hi! I am finally back from my epic trip and can’t think of a better way to shake off my own lethargy and catch up with my favorite food blogs than starting with yours and this yummy looking pasta and Stefano’s (per usual) beautiful photography. I adore the gorgeous and creative styling by the way! What are those little flowers? xoxo

    1. Francesca Post author

      Azita!!! I’m so happy to hear from you! You got me worried. I asked Suzanne if you were back because you haven’t blogged in a while. Hope you are doing well and adjusting to the American lifestyle again! 🙂

  4. Fae's Twist & Tango

    Francesca, A very delicious recipe, a great photography, and yes, I think we should celebrate every milestone in life… even better, we should celebrate every day for whatever excuse we can make! Don’t you think? 😉

  5. unpizzicodime

    Ok I went up & down and scroll to choose the winner… 🙂 And my dear Francesca, the new presentation and pics are amazing and ready for the coolest food magazine around (can they hear me???), because the colors and the atmo are perfect (although the white tulips of the first old post were balancing the béchamel concept so well), but to tell you the truth, the real winner is your recipe: I can only imagine everybody’s face when you brought your dish, probably they will invite you to all the prom’s celebrations of the neighborhood from now until Her little Majesty’s turn 😉 Bravissima!!

    1. Francesca Post author

      Let’s hope not, Claudia! It takes at least 3 hours to make it and it is crazy hot outside! 😉 Just kidding! 😉
      Thank you so much, my dear! You are way too kind! Who knows? Maybe someone will hear you … 😉 Keeping my fingers crossed. 🙂

  6. Heather @ Sweet Precision

    I certainly wish that I was your neighbor Francesca! This recipe sounds savory and delicious. I’m ashamed to admit that it was just a few years ago that I learned how to make bechamel sauce. However, it’s so versatile and I can just imagine that’s it’s perfect in this dish. I hope you enjoyed the party and had a wonderful weekend 🙂

    1. Francesca Post author

      No reason to be ashamed, Heather. I learned how to make it only five years ago! 🙂 I think this sauce can be intimidating. Maybe its her French name! 😉 The truth is … it requires only some time and a little bit of practicee et voila’! This sauce makes every dish taste better! 🙂

  7. Tracy Lee Karner

    I LOVE pasta with béchamel sauce–and never find it here in the States, so I end up making it myself. My German Mama used to make a lasagna with béchamel sauce, so I’ve got her recipe in my repertoire. Now I’m adding yours. Even before tasting it, I know it’s heavenly.

    I agree, the new presentation is better. And you are, indeed the Queen! Have a wonderful summer!

    1. Francesca Post author

      Thank you, Tracy! Your German Mama must have had Italian ancestors because the authentic Italian lasagna is only made – and I underline the word “only” – with béchamel sauce. So, hold on to that recipe because it is the real thing! 🙂

      1. Tracy Lee Karner

        I wonder…. I do know that she vacationed in Italy nearly every year, and she got the recipe from an Italian woman with whom she had become friends.

        I can eat the American version of lasagna, it’s a tasty cheese and red sauce and noodle dish, but I never think of it as “lasagna.”

  8. thesinglegourmetandtraveller

    Celebrations are good; I’m always happy to find excuses to cook something special and open some fizz 🙂 This is a great recipe. I’ve served asparagus with prosciutto (and poached egg) so know the mix of flavours must work so well, but putting it into a pasta bake like this is brilliant. I can almost taste it now!

  9. apuginthekitchen

    I love this pasta bake and I also love the pomp and circumstance associated with graduation ceremonies, it’s a way to show how proud and pleased we are with our children. I am also taking some of my old posts and re publishing them, this is a wonderful recipe and I am glad you brought it out from the archives,