Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The simplicity of pasta

The thing I like best about pasta is that you can dress it up in so many ways. It's even better when it can be done simply, as evidenced by many of the pasta recipes in Deborah Madison's The Greens Cookbook, which feature only a handful of ingredients and require little work to prepare.

Last week, I made fresh spinach pasta (from the farmers' market) with asparagus, peas, and saffron cream. In fact, it was so good, I made it two nights in a row. By the second time, I was already able to throw the dish together without looking at the recipe.

I don't usually like peas, but then, I'd always had the kind that come frozen in a bag. These peas came in their pods, fresh from the market, and I have to say it was rather satisfying to shell them. They were sweet, not at all mushy, and went very well with the pasta and sauce.

The original recipe calls for tagliatelle, but any long flat pasta works fine. Fresh is best, too, because it soaks up the cream sauce better than dried pasta.

Fettucine, asparagus, and peas with saffron cream
(adapted from The Greens Cookbook)

1 lb fresh pasta
1 lb thin asparagus, cut into short rounds
1 lb peas
1/8 tsp saffron threads, covered with a couple tbsp water to make an infusion
1 tbsp butter
2 shallots, finely diced
1-1/2 c cream

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Melt the butter in a wide sauté pan, and gently cook the shallots for several minutes, until soft. Add the cream and saffron infusion, bring to a boil, reduce slightly, and season with salt.

When the water comes to a boil, cook the asparagus for about 4 minutes, then remove and add to the cream sauce. Cook the peas for 6 minutes, scoop them out, and add them to the sauce. Next cook the pasta (taste for doneness). When done, add to cream, turning to completely coat. Serve with parmesan and pepper.

Serves four.

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