This skillet pasta recipe with artichokes and asparagus is fresh and filling

Fresh Pasta With Artichokes, Asparagus and Lemon-Mint Ricotta

Total time:40 mins


Total time:40 mins



One of my favorite lines in the movie “All About Eve” comes when a piqued Bette Davis sarcastically interrupts her lover and her nemesis with the quip: “Remind me to tell you about the time I looked into the heart of an artichoke.”

In the spring, when piles of fresh artichokes show up at the grocery store, I always think of her sharp-as-a-chef’s-knife delivery and it makes me smile.

It’s during spring that I set aside a day for the time-consuming task of stuffing the vegetables. My husband doesn’t care much for the meaty heart, so when I reach it, I often get it all to myself.

I like the texture and the flavor of the earthy-tasting heart, so I often use it in meatless dishes or in ones where meat is not the star, like in this skillet Fresh Pasta With Artichokes, Asparagus and Lemon-Mint Ricotta from Milk Street, which has just a touch of pancetta.

So, how do you look into the heart of an artichoke? It’s not easy. The vegetable, a relative of the thistle, features leathery, thorny green leaves or petals attached to a round base. The edible parts are the meaty bits at the base of the leaves and, of course, the heart. To get to it, you have to trim the rough stem, peel away the leaves and remove the hairy choke. It’s a process.

How to prep, cook and enjoy stuffed artichokes

For weeknight meals year-round, I turn to canned hearts. Besides being far easier to get to, the commercially packaged ones are the less costly choice.

The heart can be jarred or canned in a variety of ways. If the container is labeled artichoke “bottoms,” it is probably filled with the disc-shaped round bases. More commonly, however, the packages are labeled “hearts” and contain that base but with tender leaves attached. Some are small whole hearts; others are larger ones that have been quartered or cut into smaller wedges.

I prefer to buy the hearts whole, because I find the texture a little firmer. The hearts may be soaking in a variety of liquids, often an herby marinade, plain olive oil or a vinegar and water brine.

Canning class: We teach you to preserve it now, enjoy it later. The first lesson: Artichokes.

The marinated variety often is flavorful and ready to be eaten on an antipasti salad or snack board, or atop baguette slices with a smear of burrata for a quick bruschetta topping.

You may, however, prefer to add your own seasoning. If so, go for the vinegar-brined ones. Pull off a leaf or two and taste them. If they have an off flavor — too acidic or salty — gently rinse the artichokes with cool water. That taste also can reveal whether the outer leaves are tough or stringy. If so, I pull off a leaf or two and discard them to get to the more tender leaves inside. (If you are blitzing them in a food processor for a dip, this is less important.)

7 recipes that get to the heart of the artichoke

One thing to watch is that the jarred and canned variety can be high in sodium, so consider buying the hearts frozen if that is a concern for you. They may still have salt added, so read the label. If you’re in a hurry, thaw them in a bowl in the microwave and drain them before using. I find the frozen ones a little softer and mushier, so they are better for dishes made in a food processor, such as this Spinach and Artichoke Dip or this Vegan Ricotta Cheese spread.

I almost always have these little gems in my pantry. That way, in a pinch, I can toss them into salads, pasta dishes, dips or stews to be eaten in the dead of summer or maybe some snowy night, in front of the fire.

Fresh Pasta With Artichokes, Asparagus and Lemon-Mint Ricotta

The recipe calls for store-bought fresh pasta. A tip from Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street cookbook, “The World in a Skillet”: “Don’t forget to cover the skillet after adding the pasta. The lid keeps the heat in the pan so the ingredients cook through properly and without excessive evaporation.”

Look for asparagus spears about as thin as a pencil, so they will cook to crisp-tender. If you can’t find them, skip them and simply cover the skillet and let it cook until the pasta is as you like it. The dish will still taste great.

Storage: Refrigerate the pasta and ricotta mixture separately for up to 2 days. The ricotta may separate after being refrigerated, but just give it a quick stir.

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  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) fresh whole milk ricotta
  • 1/2 cup (1/2 ounce) lightly packed fresh mint, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Fine salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces diced pancetta
  • 2 medium shallots (4 ounces total), halved and thinly sliced
  • 3 cups water, plus more as needed
  • One (9-ounce) package fresh pasta, such as linguine or fettuccine
  • One (14-ounce) can quartered artichoke hearts, such as Cento brand, drained (about 8 1/2 ounces artichoke hearts)
  • 1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces on the diagonal (see headnote)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 2 pieces
  • 2 ounces pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated (about 1 cup), divided
  • Fine salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, stir together the ricotta, mint, lemon zest and juice, and 2 tablespoons of oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper and stir to combine. If not using right away, cover and refrigerate.

In a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat, heat the 1 tablespoon of oil until shimmering. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring, until it crisps, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the water, raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Add the pasta, stirring to separate the noodles. Cover and boil, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is just shy of al dente, about 3 minutes.

Stir in the artichoke hearts, then scatter the asparagus over the top. Cover and cook, without stirring, until the asparagus is tender-crisp and the pasta is al dente, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the butter and half the pecorino, then toss until combined and the butter has melted. Add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, as needed, so the sauce clings lightly to the pasta. Taste, and season with salt and pepper as desired.

Divide among bowls, and serve with the ricotta mixture spooned on top or on the side, and with the remaining pecorino on the side.

Per serving (1 3/4 cups of pasta, 1 heaping tablespoon ricotta)

Calories: 541; Total Fat: 33 g; Saturated Fat: 14 g; Cholesterol: 78 mg; Sodium: 1283 mg; Carbohydrates: 40 g; Dietary Fiber: 8 g; Sugar: 9 g; Protein: 22 g

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.

Adapted from “Milk Street: The World in a Skillet” by Christopher Kimball (Hachette Book Group, 2022).

Tested by Ann Maloney; email questions to

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