Thursday, June 07, 2007

pasta week part III: grasping onto spring

So it looks like we got two days of spring this year. I guess it's better than nothing. Pretty soon, everything green will get parched and brown. Last night's pasta was an attempt at bringing a bit of spring to my tummy before it's too late.

I combined my need to use up the ricotta cheese that I had in the fridge with my continued cravings for fresh peas. (I had been thinking of fresh peas ever since that dinner at Locanda Vini & Olii.)

I've had pasta with ricotta and lemon, and I've had peas with mint, so I thought a good jumble of those two things would make the perfect no-cook pasta. It was a resounding success, and another superfast, superfresh dish was born. It tasted like spring.

A note on fresh peas: I think in a recipe like this, taking the little bit of extra time and effort to shell and blanch fresh peas makes a huge difference. You just can't get the same bite and flavor from a frozen or canned pea. With my method, you blanch the peas in the same pot as the pasta, so the only added effort is the shelling, and there's just something so simple and satisfying about shelling your own peas. I guess it's some sense of being connected to the old way of doing things, which when it comes to food, is often the best way of doing things. Recipe if you click:


1 lb penne rigate
1 1/2 cups whole milk ricotta
1 cup fresh shelled peas
1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp lemon zest
3 tbsp chopped fresh mint (or more to taste)
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Grated parmesan cheese, to taste

The only things that require cooking in this recipe are the pasta and the peas, and they can be cooked in the same pot. Bring 4-6 quarts of salted water to boil and add the penne. While you're waiting for the water to boil and during the first few minutes after you add the pasta, shell the peas.

[Note: If you are like me and both have a cat and are clumsy, you may want to give yourself extra time to shell the peas as you will be chasing your cat around your apartment trying to retrieve fallen peas before they are batted by a furry paw into the black hole under the fridge. This is also a good reason to buy more peas than you will actually end up needing.]

About 4 minutes before your pasta will be done, add the peas to the same pot to blanch. Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, lemon zest, salt and pepper. When the pasta and peas are done, drain and add to the mixing bowl along with the ricotta cheese and mint. Toss to coat the pasta well and adjust seasoning. Serve with grated parmiggiano-reggiano.

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