Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Fresh Pea Sauce with Prosciutto & Pasta

The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies. – Gertrude Jekyll

Yesterday was a bellwether day. We harvested the first peas from our garden. We’re pseudo-farmers.

They were sugar snap peas, meant to be eaten pod and all. Since it was the first harvest, there wasn’t quite as many as one would hope. But the mature ones had to be dealt with before they became too big, and did I have a recipe waiting for them.

I had been keeping this one in my back pocket for just this occasion. Fresh pea is a lesser known pasta sauce. I first heard of it watching Lidia Bastianich on PBS. She raved about it.

It seemed simple enough: peas, cream, parmesan and a few other easy-to-come-by ingredients. And it’s “no cook,” so it’s perfect for those days (like recently) when you just don't want to be in a hot kitchen for long.

Although the peas are a “first” from our garden, they’re certainly not “the” first we've eaten from the real fruits of our labours.

We have been enjoying mesclun mix, chard, romaine, radishes and fresh herbs for a while. The work that was put into it (thanks mostly to my spouse) is really starting to pay off.

Looking at what's growing well, I have a fear we’ll have way too many tomatoes to deal with when they start to ripen. Beans are in bloom as well, and the cucumbers and squash are growing at a furious rate. The curse/blessings of a garden! I’ll endure that double-edged sword.

This was the first harvest of several we’ll have of peas, and I wanted to christen our bounty with a recipe suitable to the occasion.

My recipe calls for shelled peas, but I thought I would take a chance. Sugar snaps do taste pea-like the whole way through, so why not?

I was not disappointed. The sauce took all of about 3 minutes to make, and made 2-1/2 cups, enough to well-dress pasta for 4 people.

To round the dish out as a meal, I topped the pasta with fried prosciutto. I could have used bacon, but when in Rome... (It was on sale, too!) But I couldn’t stop there. I went back to the garden and picked some pea tendrils, just for decoration.

As many chefs have said, you eat with your eyes first. My spouse (he know's just what to say) said it looked like something you would pay way too much for at a restaurant. I have to admit it tasted the same way.

This recipe will certainly be in my mind whenever I can get good quality fresh peas.

Some recipes I found for this sauce call for frozen peas. I just can’t see that. They’re completely different than garden-fresh. Anyone who's ever picked fresh from the garden understands the difference.

If you do try this – which you should – spend the extra cash for prosciutto. It’s the perfect accompaniment.

Fresh Pea Sauce with Prosciutto & Pasta
Time: 10 min  |  Serves 4
1/2 lb linguini, spaghettini or spaghetti, for 4
200g prosciutto, crisp fried, drained
for the sauce:
2 cups fresh green peas, shelled
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
1 green onion, chopped
2 tbsp fresh Italian parsley
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Bring salted water to a boil in a large pot and add the pasta. Cook for the length of time indicated.

While the pasta cooks, cook the prosciutto on medium high in a frying pan. Once slightly crisped, remove and roughly chop into large pieces.

Pulse the sauce ingredients in a blender until smooth and thick, but not so long that you start to whip the cream. Add half the cream initially, and add the rest after the vegetables are puréed. This should take 2-3 minutes.

Drain the pasta and toss with the sauce until well coated.

Plate the pasta, sprinkle with more parmesan and pepper, and top with the prosciutto.


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