My love for Giada De Laurentiis has long been one of the driving forces in my kitchen. She has dedicated sacred space on the cookbook shelves, and I reach for her books when I need simple, reliable, good Italian food. Which is all the time, except when I get adventurous with more complicated fare. And this is a great fast, summer supper from Everday Italian, her first book.

8 ounces dried penne (the original called for ziti)
1 lb. asparagus, trimmed and cut diagonally into 1″ pieces
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
3 ounces smoked mozzarella, diced (about 1/2 cup)
3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, cut crosswise into trips
3 Tbsp thinly sliced fresh basil

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add penne and cook for 5 minutes. Add the asparagus and cook until the pasta is tender but still firm to the bite and the asparagus is crisp-tender, about 2 minutes.

Drain the pasta and the asparagus, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

In a large, heavy skillet, heat the oil over a medium flame. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, 20 seconds.

Add the pasta, asparagus, 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper, and the 1 cup of reserved cooking liquid.

Toss to coat.

Remove the skillet from the heat. Add the mozzarella, prosciutto, and basil.

Toss to coat. Add more salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer the pasta to bowls and serve.