Farmers Market Pasta Primavera
FARMERS MARKET PASTA PRIMAVERA
Spring is late in the Northwest this year. However we only needed to fly south to San Francisco to visit friends to be able to enjoy some of spring’s much desired bounty including considerable sunshine. My friend Molly and I like to cook together in each other’s kitchens. Our dilemma is that we live approximately eight-hundred seventy miles apart. So we like to get together at least once a year in each other’s homes. It was our turn this year to visit her and husband, Paul’s beautiful 1908 townhome in the Russian Hill neighborhood. My husband, John of course was along for the tasting and his role of “el burro”, a name fondly bestowed upon him by a Madrid resident who happened to witness me packing drinking water into his backpack in Spain a few years back.
On a Saturday morning in late April I happened to get the following recipe from New York Times in my email feed. It is written by Melissa Clark, cookbook author and food columnist:
Pasta Primavera with Asparagus and Peas
¼ pound sugar snap peas, stems trimmed
½ pound asparagus, ends snapped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
¾ cup fresh English peas
¼ cup thinly sliced spring onion, white part only (or use shallot)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
½ teaspoon fine sea salt, more as needed
Black pepper, more as needed
12 ounces fettuccine or tagliatelle, preferably fresh
⅔ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, at room temperature
½ cup crème fraîche or whole milk Greek yogurt, at room temperature
3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped tarragon
- Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over medium-high heat.
- While the water is coming to a boil, slice snap peas and asparagus stems into 1/4-inch-thick pieces; leave asparagus tips whole.
- Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add snap peas, asparagus, English peas and onion. Cook until vegetables are barely tender (but not too soft or mushy), 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook 1 minute more. Season with salt and pepper; set aside.
- Drop pasta into boiling water and cook until al dente (1 to 3 minutes for fresh pasta, more for dried pasta). Drain well and transfer pasta to a large bowl. Immediately toss pasta with vegetables, Parmigiano-Reggiano, crème fraîche and herbs. Season generously with salt and pepper, if needed.
The word “primavera” is Italian, meaning spring. Pasta Primavera is an American creation of fresh pasta with fresh spring vegetables. This makes the dish so easy to shop for during a springtime farmers market.
It was the perfect idea for Molly and me to shop the market and create a truly unique recipe. As we perused the market that day we found a stall that had fresh tagliatelle and a Truffle Alfredo sauce that would form the base of our dish. One cannot always be so lucky to find such a booth in a local farmers market. Then we set about to find the best specimens of fresh vegetables and mushrooms. It was a handful of English pea pods, a bunch of baby carrots, a generous portion of fiddle-head ferns, ten to twelve fava bean pods, four spring onions (later we found fresh ramps which we would have preferred but didn’t want to duplicate the onion flavor), a beautiful bundle of green asparagus and a couple of varieties of mushrooms. John and Paul so patiently tucked away our buys in a backpack and shopping bag. Then we rewarded ourselves with Bloody Marys’ and brunch at a local restaurant.
After a bus ride to their hilltop home, we napped before beginning our cooking experience. Paul set mood with music and Perfect Manhattans with Luxardo cherries. Molly and I began the preparations. Soon it all came together and we enjoyed the evening twirling pasta and vegetables onto our forks while watching the Bay Bridge light up the evening.
There are numerous Pasta Primavera recipes online. But with the right technique, you can apply your Farmers Market ingredients to create your own one-dish meal. Here is the recipe that Molly and I created:
Truffle Pasta Primavera
1 bunch baby carrots stems cut off (about 12 carrots with stems attached)
10-12 fava bean pods, beans shelled
1 cup fiddle-head ferns
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 bunch green asparagus, ends trimmed, sliced 2 inches, diagonally
10-12 English pea pods, shelled (about ⅓ cup)
4 baby spring onions, whites only, sliced into rings (about 1 cup)
6-12 small King Trumpet mushrooms, or meaty mushrooms like porcini
⅓ cup small morel mushrooms
1 pound fresh tagliatelle
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 teaspoons truffle salt, divided
1 cup heavy cream
½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper or more
¼ teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 ½ cups Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, flaked or grated, divided
1. Bring two small pots of water to a boil.
2. Add the carrots to one pot of boiling water and bring back to a boil. Boil for about two to three minutes. Drain and keep hot. Under cold running water rub each carrot to remove the skin. Slice each in half lengthwise. Reserve at room temperature.
3. Add the fava beans to the second pot of water and simmer for about three minutes. Drain and shock in cold water. Remove and discard the outer shell of the beans. Reserve at room temperature.
4. In a bowl of cool water dissolve one-half teaspoon salt and one teaspoon lemon juice. Place the fiddlehead ferns in the water and toss them to remove debris. Drain on paper towels and reserve at room temperature.
5. Wash both the King Trumpet and morel mushrooms to clean. Drain, blot dry in paper towels. Reserve at room temperature. Cut into bite-size pieces if necessary. (Do this just before cooking.)
6. Bring a gallon of water to a boil in a sauce pot. Add one tablespoon of kosher salt.
7. In a large wide sautoir (sauté pan with straight sides rather than sloping) or pasta pan heat the olive oil and butter. Add the fiddlehead ferns, asparagus and onion rings. Sauté for a few minutes until slightly softened. Add the carrots, fava beans, peas and mushrooms. Toss and sauté for a few more minutes until all are hot but still firm. Season with the one teaspoon of black truffle salt. Remove from the pan and keep hot.
8. Add the cream and remaining truffle salt to the sautoir. Cook until the cream begins to thicken. Add half the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Taste, Think, Transform with nutmeg, lemon juice, and more salt if necessary.
9. While the cream is reducing, cook the pasta according to package directions in the boiling salted water (usually two to four minutes). Add one-half cup of the pasta water to the reduced cream. Drain the pasta.
10. Add the hot pasta to the cream sauce. Toss with tongs. Pour into a large pasta bowl. Place the vegetables around the outer sides of the pan. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Tip: Feel free to improvise with vegetables and mushrooms that you find at your local farmers market. Remember to add them to the sautoir in order of hardness so that they all will come out cooked al dente. I use Fusion Black Truffle Salt that can be found on artisansalt.com