Creamy asparagus pasta is a quick and easy one pan side dish for your next weeknight meal. Bow tie pasta is tossed with lightly steamed asparagus in a creamy, from-scratch parmesan sauce.
You're going to love this recipe for creamy asparagus bow tie pasta. First, the entire dish comes together in a single pan.
Second, it's absolutely filled with flavor! Onion and garlic are sauteed in butter. Then, heavy cream is added along with red pepper flakes and salty parmesan cheese to create a creamy homemade sauce.
Lastly, this recipe is super easy to add protein in. Toss in a handful of rotisserie chicken or make some sautéed garlic butter shrimp on the side.
Ingredients and substitutions
- Vegetable broth - Can be substituted with chicken broth or beef broth. I do not recommend using a low sodium broth, since much of the flavor in this dish comes from the broth. If using a low sodium broth, I recommend adding extra herbs or salt to make up for the lost flavor.
- Asparagus - Can be substituted with other quick cooking vegetables like frozen/canned peas or corn, or fresh green beans. Heartier veggies like broccoli need more cooking time to cook through, so they should be added a little earlier in the cooking process.
- Butter - Can be substituted with olive oil if desired.
- Bow tie pasta - Can be substituted with any medium sized dried pasta you have on hand, like penne or macaroni.
- Garlic and onion - Add savory flavor to the dish. I don't recommend omitting either for best results.
- Seasoning - Red pepper flakes and pepper add a kick of heat and depth of flavor to the dish. If using a low sodium broth, you may also want to add salt to taste. I've omitted the salt in this recipe due to the use of broth as well as parmesan cheese, which adds a salty flavor.
- Heavy cream - Creates a thick, creamy sauce. Heavy cream can be substituted with half & half, but sauce will be on the thin side. I do not recommend using milk because sauce will turn out very thin.
- Parmesan cheese - Adds salty flavor and creaminess to the dish. I highly recommend shredding cheese fresh from a block instead of using pre-shredded store bought cheeses. Pre-shredded cheeses are often coated in anti-clumping powders that get grainy when melted.
Pasta cooking time
The cooking time listed in this recipe depends on the size, shape, and brand of pasta you're using. Consult your pasta package's cooking times and adjust the recipe as needed to cook your pasta properly to al dente.
How to prevent runny sauce
Because this recipe doesn't have any added thickeners, like cornstarch or flour, it's extremely important to accurately measure the pasta and broth in this recipe. The amount of broth listed perfectly cooks the pasta through without leaving lots of extra liquid in the pan.
When the pasta is cooked in the pan, the starches it releases while cooking also help thicken the broth to create a sauce along with the heavy cream.
If there's a lot of excess broth (more than about ¼ cup) after your pasta is cooked through to al dente, carefully spoon the excess broth out before continuing to the next step. This shouldn't happen if everything is measured correctly.
If the sauce looks thin after you've finished cooking your dish, remove the pan from the heat and allow to rest, uncovered for 5-10 minutes, before serving. The pasta will continue to soak up moisture in the pan, steam will continue releasing from the dish, and the sauce will thicken over time.
What to serve with asparagus pasta
Creamy asparagus pasta can be served with a salad as a lighter, meatless meal, or as a side dish for your next main course. Here are a few of our favorite dishes that pair well with a creamy pasta:
- Baked chicken drumsticks
- Marmalade glazed ham
- Grilled lemon pepper chicken
- Sautéed garlic butter shrimp
- Freezer garlic bread
- Cheese stuffed biscuits
Feel free to add a handful of these ingredients to your creamy asparagus pasta:
- Bell pepper - Saute diced bell pepper along with the onion in step two for extra flavor.
- Spinach - Add a few handfuls of fresh spinach during the last step, stir, and allow the pan to rest for 5 minute before serving.
- Frozen veggies - Stir in a cup of frozen corn, peas, or mixed veggies along with the asparagus.
- Rotisserie chicken (or other meats) - Add chopped, cooked chicken, tuna, bacon, or salmon after adding the parmesan cheese and stir to incorporate.
Creamy Asparagus Pasta
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ½ small onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 6 ounces bow tie pasta, uncooked
- 16 ounces vegetable broth
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 8 ounces asparagus
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- ¾ cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
- In a sauté pan over medium heat, add butter. Once melted, add onions. Cook for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until onions begin to brown and turn translucent. Add minced garlic and cook for 1 minute.
- Add bow tie pasta, vegetable broth, red pepper flakes, and pepper to pan. Scrape to deglaze pan as needed. Bring to a simmer, cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 9 minutes (or consult your pasta package directions and cook to al dente minus 4 minutes).
- Meanwhile, gently bend the bottom end of each asparagus spear until it breaks naturally (Usually 1-2 inches in from the bottom). Discard the woody ends, then slice spears into thirds.
- Uncover pan, add asparagus, and stir to combine. Cover and simmer for an additional 4 minutes (for very thin asparagus, reduce time to 3 minutes. For very thick asparagus, increase time to 5 minutes).
- Uncover pan. Most of liquid should be absorbed. Add heavy cream and parmesan cheese, stirring to combine. Cook for 2 minutes to heat through and allow cheese to melt.
- Remove from heat and allow to set for 5 minutes before serving (sauce will continue to thicken as it stands).
- Vegetable broth can be substituted with chicken broth or beef broth.
- If using low sodium broth, you may want to add additional salt or herbs to the dish to make up for lost flavor.
- If substituting bow tie pasta with another style of pasta, consult your pasta's cooking directions and adjust pasta cooking times accordingly.
- Leftovers will keep for 3-4 days in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator.