penne with shrimp & asparagus

Rich tomato sauce without the addition of cream. How is that possible? Eggs. Can you believe it? They are mixed in at the last minute to create a creamy textured tomato sauce. Without a lick of cream. Really. 

This is a “Genius Recipe” featured on Food52 that was adapted from Craig Claiborne’s Pasta Con Asparagi, which appeared in the 1979 publication of The New York Times Cookbook.  I took it one step further by adding shrimp to the mix.  So glad I did.  It created a delicious one-dish meal.  If you prefer, the shrimp could be replaced with some Italian sausage or maybe some grilled chicken.  You decide.  Make it your own.

penne with shrimp & asparagus

I especially love the way all of the ingredients are prepared and served from one large skillet or saute pan. Well …almost all ingredients. The pasta is cooked separately and added just before serving.

penne with shrimp & asparaguspenne with shrimp & asparagus

Saute the shrimp until opaque and transfer to a large platter. Saute the asparagus in the same skillet and transfer to the platter alongside the shrimp. The same skillet is now used to cook the tomato sauce.

penne with shrimp & asparagus

When the time comes to add the egg, the skillet must be removed from the heat so that you don’t end up with scrambled eggs in your sauce. The eggs must be vigorously stirred in to avoid curdling. I chose to temper the eggs a bit by stirring in a ladleful of the hot tomato sauce …then whisked the egg mixture into the pan with the rest of the sauce.

penne with shrimp & asparaguspenne with shrimp & asparagus

While all of that is happening, the pasta should be cooking and just about done. When ready, drain the pasta and add it to the skillet. Blend it well, add some cheese and dinner is ready.

penne with shrimp & asparaguspenne with shrimp & asparaguspenne with shrimp & asparagus

penne with shrimp & asparagus

Adapted from Food52 Genius Recipes, from Craig Claiborne's Pasta con Asparagi 

The New York Times Cookbook (1979)

Pasta with shrimp, asparagus and a rich tomato sauce.

Servings 8 servings
Author Rosemary Stelmach


  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled & deveined
  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh asparagus, trimmed
  • salt & freshly ground pepper
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil (1/2 tbsp. = 1 tsp.)
  • 2 garlic cloves, whole
  • 2 cups canned Italian plum tomatoes, roughly chopped or torn (about 18 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil, plus extra for garnish
  • 3/4 pound penne, rigatoni or other tubular pasta
  • 2 eggs plus one yolk, beaten well with a fork
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan, divided into two 1/4 cups


  1. Have all the ingredients for this recipe prepared and ready to cook before beginning.  Bring about 3 quarts of salted water to a boil and have it ready for the pasta.

  2. Heat the butter in a large, deep skillet and add the shrimp.  Cook until the shrimp are opaque and just cooked through.  With a slotted spoon or spatula, transfer them to a large plate or platter.

  3. Cut the asparagus into lengths about 2 inches long. If the stalks are thick, cut them in half or quarter them. Leave the tips in tact.  Add the asparagus pieces to the skillet.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until crisp-tender and lightly browned.  Transfer the asparagus to the plate holding the shrimp and reserve.

  4. In the same pan, add the oil and garlic.  Cook until the garlic cloves are lightly browned.   Remove and discard the garlic.  Add the tomatoes, parsley and basil.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Cook, stirring, for about 10 minutes.

  5. Meanwhile, add the pasta to the boiling water and, when it returns to a boil, cook for about 7 minutes or until al dente.  (Or follow package directions)  Do not overcook.

  6. Just before the pasta is done, turn off the heat under the tomatoes and add the beaten eggs, stirring vigorously so that they blend without curdling.  Do not boil the sauce after the eggs are added.  (If you are nervous about curdling the eggs, you may temper them in, by stirring a ladleful of the hot tomato sauce into the eggs, then whisking the mixture back into the pan.)

  7. Add the shrimp and asparagus to the tomato sauce and stir to blend.

  8. Drain the pasta immediately.  Add the pasta to the tomato sauce, shrimp and asparagus mixture and toss with half the cheese.  Serve piping hot with the remaining cheese on the side.

penne with shrimp & asparagus

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