Saturday, May 16, 2015

Spring Pasta with Sugar Snap Peas, Mushrooms, Pesto, Pine Nuts & Goat Cheese

When I purchased some sugar snap peas (first of the season!) at the market last week, I knew that one of the things I was going to make would be a quick pasta.  I wanted to share the recipe for this particular pasta the first time I made it (one...maybe two...years ago).  But I didn't.  I post so many pasta recipes that I am almost always hesitant to post another.  But the reality is that I love pasta…..and I eat a lot of pasta.... and if I am going to post things that I love to make and serve at my own table, it will often be a recipe for pasta.  Ultimately, I have to assume that if you visit my blog regularly, you like the kinds of things that I like...and that another seasonal recipe for pasta (particularly one that includes some fresh young sugar snap peas) might be just the thing you are hungry for right now.

If you don't yet have sugar snap peas in your region, you can still make a version of this pasta.  I have made it with asparagus...and have also used it as a way to use up odds and ends of spring vegetables

(a little asparagus...a few sugar snaps...a handful of English peas).  I like it best with the sugar snaps...they go particularly well with the tangy goat cheese...but it is very good with asparagus too.   All of these spring vegetables are delicious with mushrooms and pesto.  The pesto itself is a very nice addition, but if you don't have any (and don't want to make it), the addition of a little garlic....some chopped fresh herbs (basil, arugula, parsley and/or mint)...along with a handful of finely grated Parmesan or Pecorino will do just fine.  

Even though I have posted many pasta recipes, I have not posted too many recipes that include sugar snap peas.  As a consequence, I have never posted any kind of commentary on their preparation.  If you have never prepared them there are a couple of things you should know.  The first is that sugar snap peas frequently have tough strings that run the length (or nearly so) of the pod on both sides.  Removing them may seem like a pain...or a detail that only the most persnickety of cooks would attend to... but I assure you it is a necessary step.  When present, the strings can be as tough as dental floss and just as inedible.  You (and your guests...) will end up either picking them out of your mouth or simply pushing the peas aside to eat the other things on the plate rather than deal with them.  It is best to go to the trouble to remove them before you cook them.

To remove the strings, simply pinch off both ends of the pod (the stem and the blossom), pulling down one side—and then the other—as you do so.  Sometimes the strings are so tough that when you bend and snap the first end (I start with the stem end) the strings on both sides will come away as you pull down.  On other occasions, you will find that the strings have not developed at all.  If this is the case—you have hit the sugar snap pea jackpot—and you only need to pinch off the stem.

The "string" on the flat side is typically thicker and stronger
 than the one on the curved side.

This one has thick, tough strings on both sides...
they will both come away with one pull.

The'll be so glad you removed them...

Sugar Snaps without their strings...ready to eat!
The second thing about sugar snap peas is that they are best eaten when they are just barely cooked....or raw (as a crudité or in a salad).  Part of their charm is their pleasant crunch...and their sweet and ultra fresh pea flavor (just as the name "sugar snap" would imply...)...both of which are preserved by minimal cooking.  When cooked, sugar snap peas go from crunchy to mushy in a cook them just long enough to soften the crunch....this will only take about a minute when dropped into boiling salted water.  After their quick blanch, the peas are ready to be dressed with butter or olive oil (to be serves as a vegetable side), tossed in a salad....or added to the "sauce" of a fresh, Spring pasta....

Gemelli with Mushrooms, Sugar Snap Peas & Goat Cheese

olive oil
2 or 3 spring onions, thinly sliced (white and some of green)
1/2 T. butter
4 oz. crimini or white button mushrooms, brushed free of dirt and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1/3 lb. sugar snap peas, strings removed and sliced on a long diagonal into 2 or 3 pieces each
8 oz. gemelli pasta
2 to 4 T. pesto (basil or arugula)—see note
2 T. toasted pine nuts
2 oz. crumbled goat cheese

Heat some olive oil (about a tablespoon) in a medium sauté pan over moderate heat.  Add the spring onions along with a pinch of salt and cook at a gentle sizzle until just tender (3 minutes or so).  

Increase the heat slightly and the butter to the pan.  When it has melted add the mushrooms along with a pinch of salt.  Cook until any liquid the mushrooms have released has evaporated and the mushrooms are sizzling in the fat and beginning to brown around the edges.  Set aside.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to the boil. Salt generously (at least a teaspoon per quart of water).  Add the snap peas and cook for one minute.  Taste one to make sure it is cooked to your liking.  If so, scoop the peas out of the water and add them to the pan with the mushrooms...toss to combine and set aside. 

Add the pasta to the same pot in which the peas were cooked and cook at a rapid boil until al dente.   Drain, reserving some of the cooking water.  Add the pasta to the pan with the vegetables and toss to combine.  Thin a few spoonfuls of pesto with some of the pasta water and add this to the pasta along with the pine nuts and a drizzle of oil.  Toss well.  If the pasta seems dry, add some of the cooking water.  Divide among serving plates, drizzle with more olive oil if desired.  Crumble the goat cheese over and serve immediately.  Serves 2 generously.

  • I prefer arugula pesto in the spring, but have made this dish with basil pesto too.  Both are good. If you don't have any pesto on hand, you may leave it out. To replace some of the flavor, add a small clove of minced garlic to the pan and cook briefly when the mushrooms are finished cooking. Then, add a handful of julienne/chiffonade arugula or basil leaves to the pan with the hot pasta. Finally, toss in a few tablespoons of Parmesan or Pecorino just before serving. 
  • This recipe is easily doubled...simply use a large sauté pan (large enough to hold the mushrooms in a single layer...and ultimately all of the pasta ingredients).
  • Substitute asparagus for the some or all of the sugar snaps.  Trim the tough ends from the asparagus and cut into 2-inch lengths on a short diagonal.  You will probably need to blanch the asparagus for a little bit longer...maybe 3 minutes, or so.
Printable Recipe

1 comment:

srik said...

spring pasta nice one ..!