Yeah, it may still be snowing (ugh), but the calendar says it's officially spring. Pasta dishes are easy to make and take very little time, so they are perfect for weeknights. You can whip them up after taking a long afternoon walk in the spring sun. Why use jarred sauces or frozen ingredients when you can use fresh, newly grown vegetables that make your plate both beautiful and good for you? It's a no-brainer!
And yes, we do only have one set of pasta dishes. We also cook with butter (gasp!).
#3. PASTA PRIMAVERA - Primavera is Italian for "spring" and this light dish features a variety of crisp spring veggies, herbs, and light touch of cheese.
1/2 pound penne pasta
1 cup shelled fresh peas
1/4 pound green beans, cut in half
1/4 pound sugar snap peas
3 small carrots, cut into small rounds
1 small yellow squash, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1 tablespoon chopped mint
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook pasta three minutes less than package directs. Add the peas, green beans, snap peas, carrots and squash in with the pasta and cook for the remaining time (3-4 minutes), until pasta and vegetables are to desired tenderness. In a large saute pan, add the oil, garlic and red pepper flakes. Put the heat on medium and begin to cook the garlic and pepper in the oil, taking care not to burn it. Drain the pasta and vegetables and add them to the saute pan; toss well. Stir in the parmesan and ricotta and salt to taste. Toss with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and serve into pasta dishes. Sprinkle each dish with some chopped chives and mint.
#2. SPRING VEGETABLE FARFALLE - Freshly toasted bread crumbs make for a crunch topping for this dish. The slight flavor of licorice from the tarragon and fennel is nicely balanced by zippy lemon.
2 slices white sandwich bread, finely chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons snipped chives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch broccolini
1 pound mini-farfalle
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 fennel bulb - halved, cored and thinly sliced
juice from 1/2 lemon
2 drops lemon oil (or a drizzle of lemon-flavored olive oil)
1 tablespoon of lemon zest
Preheat the oven to 350. On a baking sheet, toss the bread with 1/4 cup of the oil and toast for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring once, until golden. Let cool, then stir in half each of the chives and tarragon. Season the crumbs with salt and pepper and set aside. In a pot of boiling salted water, cook the broccolini until tender, 1 minute; using tongs, transfer to a cutting board and coarsely chop. Boil the pasta in the broccolini water until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. In a deep skillet or wok, melt the butter in the remaining 1/4 cup of oil. Add the garlic, fennel and broccolini and cook over moderate heat until the fennel is crisp-tender, about 6 minutes. Add the pasta, lemon juice and cooking water and season with salt and pepper. Cook over moderate heat until the water is nearly absorbed. Stir in the remaining herbs and lemon oil. Sprinkle the pasta with the bread crumbs and lemon zest just before serving.
#1. SPRING PASTA WITH PROSCIUTTO, LETTUCE AND PEAS - Lettuce is an interesting addition to this dish which, like our Primavera, uses peas but also adds a touch of salty prosciutto. If you have chive flower buds, they make a gorgeous garnish!
2 cups shelled fresh peas
1 pound campanelle (trumpet-shaped) pasta
1 head Boston lettuce, cored, leaves cut into 3/4-inch-wide slices
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese plus additional for sprinkling
4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, into 1/2-inch-wide strips
Melt butter with 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add green onions and shallots. Season with salt and pepper. Saute until fragrant and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add wine. Increase heat to medium-high and simmer until liquid is almost evaporated, about 3 minutes. Add broth and bring to simmer; then set aside. Cook peas according to package directions, then drain. In the meantime, put water in a large pot to boil for the pasta. Cook pasta according to package directions for al dente results. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta water. Add lettuce to onion/broth mixture and stir over low heat just until wilted, about 1 minute. Add peas, drained pasta, and 1 cup Parmesan cheese and toss together, adding reserved pasta water by 1/4 cupfuls if dry. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Fold in prosciutto, drizzle with olive oil, and serve, with additional Parmesan as desired.