Pasta for Spring

Fresh English peas require shelling, and that’s more work than buying frozen ones, but the flavor is astounding and worth the effort. Some of my best childhood memories are of my mother sitting around the kitchen table with a lady-friend or two, sipping lemonade, sharing stories, and shelling peas or snapping green beans.

Ingredients

  • Sea salt
  • 12 ounces whole wheat pasta, penne or other
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large cloves organic garlic, sliced
  • 2 organic shallots, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large bunch asparagus, tough bottom 2 inches trimmed and discarded, remainder cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 large bulb fennel, base cut in half, then each half cut into thin half circles, and pale green stems cut into thin slices
  • 2 sun-dried tomatoes, cut into thin slices Pepper
  • 1 pound English peas, shelled, about ¾ cup fresh peas
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh organic tarragon or 1 teaspoon dried tarragon
  • 1 35-ounce can whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes in juice, squeezed by hand
  • ½ cup white wine
  • Pinch of saffron
  • teaspoon cayenne pepper

Method

  1. Bring a large covered pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. Stir in the pasta and cook according to package directions. Before draining, reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a heavy pot over medium heat. Add the garlic, shallots, asparagus, fennel, and sun-dried tomatoes. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and pepper. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, until vegetables have softened slightly. Add the shelled peas, tarragon, tomatoes, white wine, saffron, and cayenne and stir well to mix. Cover and bring to a medium boil (about 5 minutes), stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, then add the reserved pasta cooking water, stir, and continue cooking for about 5 minutes until the sauce has reduced slightly. Taste for seasoning. Stir in the drained pasta. Serve immediately.

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