top of page
  • Maddie LaBerge

Bright Summer Lunch: Penne Rustica with a Kick

When I work from home, it is really easy for me to miss lunch entirely. This Penne Rustica was an easy and quick meal that I made this week, which gave me a quick carb hit and fueled my brain through the end of the day. The bright lemon zest pairs with the nutty Panko topping making this simple pasta dish taste complex and expensive. I'll spare you my life story pre-recipe and just get right to it!

Ingredients for 2 servings

  • Penne Pasta: 6 ounces

  • Asparagus: 6 ounces

  • 1 Roma Tomato

  • 1 Lemon

  • Chives: ¼ ounce

  • Panko Breadcrumbs: ¼ cup

  • Almonds: ½ ounce

  • Chili Flakes: 1 teaspoon

  • Garlic Herb Butter: 2 tablespoons

  • Parmesan Cheese: ¼ cup

  • Olive Oil: 3 teaspoons

  • Butter: 2 tablespoons

  • Salt

  • Pepper


  • Large Pot

  • Strainer

  • Large Pan

  • Zester

  • Small Bowl


Cooking Instructions:

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

  • Once boiling, add penne to the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, about 9-11 minutes.

  • Reserve ½ cup of pasta cooking water (1 cup for 4 servings), then drain.

Prep and Make Topping:

  • Meanwhile, wash and dry produce.

  • Trim and discard woody bottom ends from asparagus; cut stalks crosswise into 1-inch-long pieces.

  • Dice the tomato.

  • Mince chives.

  • Zest and quarter the lemon.

Ingredients for Penne Rustica
  • Melt 1 tablespoon of plain butter in a large pan over medium-high heat.

  • Add panko and almonds; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes.

  • Turn off the heat and stir in a pinch of lemon zest and a pinch of chili flakes. Transfer to a small bowl.

Nutty Panko to top the Penne Rustica

Cook Veggies:

  • Heat a drizzle of olive oil in the same pan over medium-high heat.

  • Add asparagus and cook, stirring often, until bright green and tender, about 2-4 minutes.

Olive oil and Asparagus for the Penne Rustica
  • Add tomato and cook, stirring, until slightly softened, about 1-2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Penne Rustica before cheese

Toss Pasta:

  • Add drained penne, garlic herb butter, half of the Parmesan (save the rest for serving), and 1⁄4 cup of reserved pasta cooking water (½ cup for 4 servings) to the pan with veggies.

  • Stir until thoroughly combined. Season with salt and pepper.

Finish Pasta:

  • Add half of the chives, remaining lemon zest, 1 tablespoon of plain butter (2 tablespoons for 4 servings), and as many remaining chili flakes as you like to the pan with pasta.

  • Cook, stirring, until everything is thoroughly coated in sauce, about 1-2 minutes.

  • If needed, stir in more reserved pasta cooking water a splash at a time.

  • Turn off the heat; stir in a squeeze of lemon juice to taste. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Adding cheese, red pepper flakes and butter to the Penne Rustica

The final Penne Rustica


  • Divide pasta between bowls.

  • Sprinkle with panko mixture and remaining Parmesan.

  • Drizzle a bit of olive oil over the bowls.

  • Garnish with remaining chives.

  • Serve with any remaining lemon wedges on the side.


Don't miss a thing.

Thanks for subscribing!


  • Facebook
  • Instagram
bottom of page