Put up a large pot of salted water for cooking the pasta and bring it to a boil.
Add the asparagus and blanch it until just tender, about 3 minutes.
Scoop the asparagus from the water with a large strainer spoon and place in a colander. Run cold water over it to stop the cooking process, and to preserve the bright green color. Drain well and slice into small pieces on the diagonal, leaving the tips whole.
Bring the water back to a rapid boil and cook the penne until just al dente (tender but slightly firm to the bite). Run the pasta under cold water and drain very well.
In a large serving bowl, add the pasta, the blanched asparagus and all the remaining ingredients. Season with salt and pepper and toss well until all the pasta is well coated with dressing. Taste for seasoning. This is best served at room temperature.
Note: Another lovely addition to this pasta is about 3/4 cup freshly shelled spring peas. Blanch them for 1 minute in the boiling pasta water after you blanch the asparagus. Drain well and add them to the bowl along with the other ingredients.