Creamy Ham Pasta with Asparagus is a simple 30-minute recipe that will elevate cooked ham to a new level. The homemade pasta sauce is made from scratch using garlic, smoked paprika, red pepper flakes, cream, and shredded Parmesan. This recipe is perfect for leftover cooked ham and works great as a simple weeknight dinner or lunch.
30-Minute ham pasta
This 30-minute meal combines creamy garlic parmesan sauce with cooked ham, bow-tie pasta, garlic, asparagus, smoked paprika, red pepper flakes, and fresh herbs. This dish is so comforting, creamy, and flavorful - it will become your new favorite comfort food! It's a simple and quick dinner (only 30 minutes of your time!) which makes it a perfect choice to make on a busy weeknight. You don't even need to cook the ham. Buy it already cooked or use leftover cooked ham. If you want more recipe inspiration that uses ham as a star ingredient, be sure to check out the delicious Italian-style ham pasta salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, and mozzarella as well as this easy side dish: ham and cheese asparagus.
Why you'll love it
- Well-balanced meal. This meal combines together protein (ham), veggies (asparagus), and carbs (pasta) in a delicious way that a whole family can enjoy. I recommend that you go heavy on the veggies and double the amount of asparagus (or add extra veggies, such as spinach) in this recipe!
- Great for leftover ham. Make creamy ham pasta with leftover cooked ham that you might have sitting in your fridge after the holidays (Christmas, Easter, etc.). Or, if you simply bought too much ham - use it up in this recipe!
- 30-minute, easily adjustable recipe. Ham pasta is really easy to throw together. You can also quickly switch out the ingredients according to whatever you have available. It's also a great recipe to use up leftovers and clean out your fridge. Throw any kind of veggies you like into this dish: asparagus, bell peppers, spinach, green beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, etc.
- Ham. This is a great recipe for using up ham leftovers or store-bought cooked ham. It makes this recipe super easy! I diced ham into cubes, but you can also use thinly sliced ham or even sandwich-style ham.
- Pasta. I like to use small-shaped pasta as it is perfect for being coated with creamy sauce and works well with ham and asparagus. Use bow-tie pasta, fusilli, rotini, penne, or shell pasta.
- Asparagus is sliced into 1-inch or 2-inch pieces and quickly blanched in the same boiling water as pasta.
- Heavy cream can be replaced with half-and-half.
- Parmesan cheese is freshly shredded and melted into the heavy cream.
- Seasonings include fresh minced garlic, smoked paprika, red pepper flakes, and fresh herbs, such as thyme or oregano.
How to make ham pasta - recipe overview
Here is the recipe in a nutshell to give you an idea of just how simple and easy it is:
- Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling water.
- Add asparagus (diced into 1-inch or 2-inch pieces) during the last 3 minutes of cooking pasta to the same pot of boiling water and blanch it for 3 minutes.
- Rinse both cooked pasta and asparagus under running cold water to prevent both of these ingredients from getting soft, mushy, and sticking to each other.
- Make the creamy sauce while the pasta is cooking by cooking minced garlic with olive oil in a large skillet, then adding heavy cream, smoked paprika, red pepper flakes, and salt. Bring everything to a boil and sprinkle room-temperature shredded Parmesan cheese. Stir everything over low-medium heat until the cheese melts.
- Combine all the ingredients together in the skillet with the creamy sauce: add cooked and drained pasta and asparagus, and add cooked ham (cubed into ½ inch size pieces). Stir everything well, and season with more salt and red pepper flakes, if desired. Top with fresh thyme and grated Parmesan, if you like. That's it! Super easy and so tasty.
What is a good substitute for ham?
- Prosciutto - crispy it up in the preheated oven at 350 F for about 10 minutes before adding it to the pasta.
- Bacon - you can use chopped cooked bacon or bacon bits.
- Turkey bacon would work great too.
What can you use instead of heavy cream?
- Half-and-half should work equally well. If using half-and-half, add a little bit more shredded cheese to thicken up the sauce.
- Milk. Make a roux using a small amount of olive oil and flour and then gradually whisk in milk on low-medium heat until the sauce is creamy with gravy-like consistency. At this point, you can carefully start adding shredded cheese.
Substitutions and variations
- Veggies. Ham pasta is a great recipe to use all kinds of vegetables to clean out your fridge! I recommend asparagus, bell peppers, green beans, spinach, or arugula.
- Ham. Any ham will work! I prefer to use cooked ham because it makes this recipe a breeze! You can even use thinly sliced ham pieces (sandwich-style) in this pasta if that's what you have sitting in your fridge.
- Cheese. Parmesan cheese blends perfectly with the ham and asparagus flavors. Other cheeses I recommend are Asiago, Parmesan, or Pecorino Romano.
- Pasta. I prefer short-shaped pasta in this recipe. Good choices are farfalle (bow-tie pasta), penne, rigatoni, fusilli, or orecchiette.
Storage and reheating tips
- Fridge. Store ham pasta in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
- Freezer. I do not recommend freezing this dish because the creamy sauce tends to separate if frozen, thawed, and reheated.
- Things to consider. Keep in mind that the cream sauce when refrigerated loses its texture and becomes thick. To reheat it the next day, reheat over low-medium heat on the stovetop and add extra milk, half-and-half, or heavy cream when reheating to thin out the sauce. Or, gently reheat in the microwave in short time intervals (in 30 seconds increments) not to overheat the pasta, otherwise, the sauce will separate.
What to serve with ham pasta
Because this recipe features a rich and creamy sauce, I recommend serving it with a slice of crusty Italian bread or olive bread, or garlic bread to dip into the luscious creamy sauce. Also, serve a fresh salad - it always goes well with creamy pasta dishes. Here are my favorites:
- Arugula Salad with Apples, Cranberries, Pecans, and Balsamic Dressing
- Cranberry Spinach Salad with Cashews and Goat Cheese and Lemon-Honey Poppy Seed Dressing
- Autumn Salad with Arugula, roasted Butternut Squash, dried Figs, toasted sliced Almonds, and Pomegranate Seeds.
- Simple Spinach Salad with Pine Nuts, Parmesan Cheese
- Arugula Salad with Pears, Apples, and Cashews
Other ham recipes you might like
- Italian Ham Pasta Salad with Cherry Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Olives, and Mozzarella
- Ham and Cheese Asparagus
- Chicken Bake with Ham and Swiss Cheese
Creamy Ham Pasta with Asparagus (30-Minute Meal)
- 8 oz pasta
- 8 oz asparagus
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 5 cloves garlic minced
- 1 cup heavy cream or half-and-half
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ⅓ cup Parmesan shredded, at room temperature
- 1 lb ham cooked
- fresh thyme
Cook pasta and asparagus
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package instructions.
- Trim asparagus ends, cutting off hard, dried-out ends. Slice asparagus into 1.5 or 2-inch pieces. During the last 3 minutes of cooking pasta, add asparagus to the same pot of boiling water and cook for 3 minutes.
- Drain both cooked pasta and asparagus. Rinse both well under running cold water.
- Proceed with the rest of the recipe while you wait for the water to boil and while the pasta is being boiled.
Make creamy sauce
- Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat.
- Add minced garlic. Cook on medium heat for about 30 seconds, constantly stirring.
- Add 1 cup of heavy cream, smoked paprika, and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.
- Sprinkle shredded Parmesan cheese (it should be at room temperature, not refrigerator cold) on top of the boiling cream, evenly across the entire surface of the skillet (don't just dump all the cheese in one spot). Stir for about 30 seconds or longer until the cheese melts on low-medium heat.
- If the sauce is too thin, gradually add more cheese. If the sauce gets too thick, add more milk or heavy cream.
- Dice cooked ham into ½ inch or under ½ inch cubes.
- Add diced ham, cooked and drained pasta, and asparagus. Mix everything together in a sauce.
- Taste the pasta and season with more salt, and red pepper flakes, if needed. Top with fresh thyme (leaves only, not sprigs). Top with grated Parmesan, if desired.
The nutritional information on this website is only an estimate and is provided for convenience and as a courtesy only. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed. It should not be used as a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.