The days grow warmer and lighter, coaxing tulips and daffodils into bloom. Familiar signs of spring's arrival. But some cold days and bare branches still linger. It's up and down, back and forth. A constant reminder of a season in transition.
During this time, I find myself drawn to spring's first greens--ramps, asparagus, radishes, peas. But I'm also still relishing cooler weather and comforting flavors.
This dish reflects that transition. It captures our eagerness for spring with green peas (three kinds!), but tempers it with warm, hearty pasta and a kiss of cream.
As you may know by now, I'm always looking for ways to use every part of the vegetable, meat or fish I'm cooking. To that end, I've developed a simple pea stock made from the pods that would otherwise be discarded. It not only reduces waste, it reinforces the green pea flavor of the dish.
Pancetta makes an appearance since they pair so well with peas (and who doesn't like a little pork belly?). But the meat is more of a seasoning; it's certainly not the main affair. And you can simply leave it out for a vegetarian version.
I garnish the dish with thin little ribbons of mint, a classic combination with peas. The pansies add beauty, but reinforce the fresh, minty flavor, too.
At the very end, I stir in some lemon juice and sprinkle of lemon zest to brighten up the dish.
It's a little bit of spring, in a bowl. I hope you enjoy.
Spring Pea Pasta
1/4 pound snow peas, cut into diamonds
1/4 pound sugar snap peas, thinly sliced on the bias
1 cup fresh or frozen shelled peas
1 pound orechiette
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 pound pancetta, thinly sliced and roughly cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 small shallot, minced
1 cup pea stock (recipe follows)
1/2 cup cream
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pansies or other edible flowers
- Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil (it should taste salty like the sea). Fill a large bowl with ice water and set next to the pot. Using a colander or pasta basket, cook the snow peas and sugar snap peas until crisp tender, about 2 minutes. Plunge into the ice water bath to stop the cooking, drain, and set aside. If using fresh shelled peas, cook them for 1 minute, then plunge into the ice water bath, drain, and set aside.
- In the same pot of water, cook the pasta until al dente and drain, reserving a cup or so of the pasta cooking water.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook until golden, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a plate and set aside. Reserve the fat in the pan.
- Add the shallot to the skillet and cook until soft, about 1 minute. Add the pea stock and cream and cook for a few minutes until reduced and thickened a little. Add the peas, pancetta, pasta and 1/2 cup of the cooking water to the skillet and stir to coat the pasta. Add more cooking water if needed. Stir in the lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.
- Scoop into bowls and sprinkle with the lemon zest, mint and flowers.
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
Shells from 1/4 pound shelling peas (about 2 cups)
- Place the vegetables in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 1 hour. Strain through a fine mesh strainer.