Food & Drink

Ro Howe’s Recipes: Pan-Roasted Asparagus/Tomato Fusilli Carbonara

I sincerely thank the ubiquitous “cheese macaroni” of my childhood for being the gateway food to pasta dreamland in my adult life. It morphed so readily into pasta carbonara, thought to be named, in the mid-twentieth century, for Italian charcoal workers—a simple, hearty dish based on eggs, cheese, and pancetta or guanciale bacon. Elizabeth David even included it in her Italian Food, published in 1954.

Here’s one of my vegetarian versions—referencing the cooked or cured element in one of the ingredients to give depth in the flavor profile: Asparagus, the lusty “sparrow grass” of Medieval England, is transformed beautifully by being seasoned and seared briefly in hot olive oil before adding to the egg-dressed pasta. Some may demur at the addition of raw eggs, but understand that the heat of the pasta cooks them to beautifully absorb the cheese and coat all in a loving emulsion.


Pan-Roasted Asparagus/Tomato Fusilli Carbonara


Yield: six portions as main course

Equipment: Medium sauté pan, measuring spoons, large saucepan, colander, large mixing bowl, whisk, cheese grater, large rubber spatula.

1½ # green asparagus
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

8 quarts water
1 tablespoon salt
1½ # dried fusilli

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic

6 large eggs, lightly beaten
1C grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
1 pint quartered cherry tomatoes
½ C torn basil leaves
Kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
6 basil sprigs
6 tablespoons grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese



Trim off the woody end of the asparagus and discard. Cut the asparagus stems into two-inch pieces on the diagonal.

For the asparagus, have an empty half sheet tray ready nearby.

Heat a sauté pan and add two tablespoons olive oil. When shimmering hot, add the seasoned asparagus in four small batches.

Let them gain some color before tossing them.

When tossed and seared on the second side, remove them to the waiting half-sheet tray. The asparagus should have roast marks on them.

Boil the pasta water in a large pot, adding salt.

When boiling, add the fusilli and stir to prevent sticking. Lightly cover the pot till back to the boil. Stir again and let cook according to package timing. Add two minutes if you plan to serve the dish cold.

For the sauce, heat a large pan and add olive oil and minced garlic. Cook, stirring over medium heat till light golden. Turn off heat.

Add the freshly cooked fusilli and toss together.

Add the eggs and stir immediately to coat the pasta.

Fold in the pan-roasted asparagus, quartered cherry tomatoes, and torn basil leaves.

Add grated cheese.

Season to taste.

Serve with a drizzle of olive oil, additional grated cheese, and garnished with a basil sprig.
This can be served hot or at room temperature.


RELATED: Ro Howe’s Recipes: Minted White and Green Asparagus With Pecorino Polenta


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