My search for clarity has left me empty-handed this week, which isn’t to say that I haven’t tried. There have been long walks and talks with friends, vinyasas at yoga class and lots of sleep, maybe too much. Though my preoccupied mind and tiny kitchen haven’t produced any original recipes worth sharing this week, I am glad to share this one. I was flipping through a cookbook during a phone call when this recipe spoke to me. It’s seasonally appropriate, bursting with flavor and gorgeous green hues, and from one of my most trusted resources, Aida Mollenkamp’s Keys to the Kitchen.
Beware that this recipe requires some serious chopping work, but the end result is worth the effort. The recipe yields quite a bit of food, enough for six to eight servings, so it may be best created with helpers and shared with a small crowd. I’ve realized lately that good food tastes much better when shared.
Spring Pea and Asparagus PastaCourse: MainCuisine: Italian
This very green pasta dish is bursting with spring flavors, including peas, asparagus and fresh herbs. Once you have prepped your vegetables, the dish comes together rather quickly. This recipe yields a lot (enough for 6 to 8 servings) so feel free to halve it if you are serving two.
1 pound (16 ounces) whole grain pasta (conchiglie, orecchiette, shells, fusilli or linguine will work)
4 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for garnish
5 shallots, quartered lengthwise and sliced very thin crosswise
1 pound pencil-thin asparagus, woody ends snapped off, and cut in ½-inch slices on the bias
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups shelled fresh or frozen English peas (defrost peas if frozen)
⅔ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (or regular Parmesan), plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (from one lemon)
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (less than one lemon)
1 cup roughly chopped mixed herbs (I used flat-leaf Italian parsley, chives and mint, other suggestions include chervil and tarragon)
¾ cup toasted pine nuts
sea salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
- First, prep your vegetables. Then bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat. Cook the pasta for two minutes less than the package directions. Reserve 2 cups of the pasta water and drain the pasta.
- While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in your largest frying pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the shallots, season with salt and pepper, and cook until golden brown (about 5 minutes).
- Add the asparagus and garlic, season with salt, and cook until the asparagus is knife-tender and bright green (about 3 minutes). Stir in the peas and cook until the peas are bright green (about 2 minutes).
- Add the drained pasta to the pan along with 1 cup of the reserved pasta water. Toss to coat. Cook until the sauce starts to coat the pasta (about 2 minutes). Remove the pan from heat and transfer its contents to a large serving bowl. Add the cheese and butter and stir to coat. (Add more pasta water as needed. The sauce should just cling to the pasta.)
- Stir in the lemon zest, lemon juice, herbs and pine nuts. Taste and adjust seasonings as required (add a pinch of salt, red pepper flakes and/or a squeeze of lemon juice if desired). Grate some cheese over the top and garnish with freshly ground black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve immediately.
- Minimally adapted from Keys to the Kitchen: The Essential Reference for Becoming a More Accomplished, Adventurous Cook by Aida Mollenkamp.
- Leftovers will keep well for a couple of days in the fridge, covered.