Penne with Asparagus, Peas & Mushrooms

This recipe originates from Philadelphia’s revolutionary restaurant, White Dog Cafe.  My son, Gregg, was a waiter there after he graduated from college and through him I learned of this wonderful restaurant.  Their mission was, and always remains, to be a socially responsible business dedicated to supporting farmers and local agriculture.  Oh, I did I mention…this recipe is delicious and suitable for vegetarians!


  • 12 ounces of asparagus, trimmed of tough ends, cut diagonally into 1-1/2″ lengths
  • 1 pound dried penne
  • 3 TBL extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-1/2 cups washed, thinly sliced leeks (white part only) or scallions
  • 2 TBL minced garlic
  • 8 ounces white or cremini mushrooms, sliced (about 3 cups)
  • 1/4 cup dry vermouth
  • 2 cups Vegetable stock
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 3 TBL chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 3 TBL chopped fresh dill
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup fine dry bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese


1. In a large pot of salted, boiling water, blanch the asparagus until tender, yet firm, 1 to 2 minutes, depending upon the size. Remove the asparagus with a slotted spoon and plunge into ice water until chilled. Drain and reserve.

2. Bring the asparagus blanching water back to a rolling boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain well and toss with 1 TBL of the olive oil.

3. While the pasta cooks heat the remaining 2 TBL of olive oil in a large saute pan and set over medium high heat until it ripples. Add the leeks and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, without browning, for 1 minute. Add the mushrooms and saute until they release their moisture and cook dry, about 5 minutes. Pour in the vermouth and cook until it evaporates. Add the vegetable stock and bring to a simmer. Add the reserved asparagus, peas, mint and dill. Simmer until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Divide the cooked pasta among 4 warmed bowls. Top each with the vegetables and stock. Sprinkle the bread crumbs and Parmesan on top of each portion. Serve immediately.



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