It’s been a little while since we talked food around these parts, but I suspect you all still like to eat, yes? Me too. And preferably not leftovers off of my toddler’s plate. I firmly believe there is nothing better than enjoying a meal made with fresh, in-season ingredients. Farmers’ markets are now brimming over with some awesome spring produce so this is the time to take full advantage. With Memorial Day Weekend coming up I know we’re supposed to be focused on all things grilled, but really, how exciting does a charred piece of meat ever get? I’d turn to a lovely meal of fresh pasta any day of the week. So I’ve gathered three spring pasta recipes that you can either whip up for a weeknight dinner or even serve over Memorial Day – very European style (yes, I realize Memorial Day is a very American holiday, but I’d always rather be in Italy so pasta it is!).
Bucatini with Zucchini, Olives & Macadamia Nuts: While it might sound a little odd to put macadamia nuts in with pasta, their rich fatty texure and smooth flavor can mimic pine nuts and works wonderfully. I love the addition of big salty olives to this dish. If you can find early season tomatoes, go for it, otherwise just skip ’em.
Ingredients for basil pesto:
1 large bunch of basil
1-2 cloves of garlic
40g pine nuts
30g Parmesan, finely grated
freshly ground black pepper
a small pinch of freshly grounded sea salt
50-60ml of good quality extra virgin olive oil
Place basil, garlic, pine nuts in the food processor bowl first. Whizz until fine and then add the rest of the ingredients: grated Parmesan, salt, pepper and olive oil and mix them all together with a spoon.
Ingredients for the pasta:
350g fresh pasta – I love a local whole wheat bucatini made by Bay Area-based The Pasta Company
200g green olives
200g yellow tomatoes
100g macadamia nuts
a handful or two of pine nuts
good quality olive oil
a handful of grated parmesan
fresh basil leaves
Boil the pasta in lightly salted water with a spoonful of olive oil. Drain, pour some cold water through it and place back in the pan. Add the pesto and mix it in well so it covers the whole pasta. Pour some oil in a pan, heat it up and add sliced zucchini, cook until just softened. Add them to the pasta and heat it up slightly. Take it off the heat again and add the rest of the ingredient: olives, halved tomatoes, macadamia and pine nuts. Sprinkle with some grated Parmesan and fresh basil leaves.
One-Pot Spring Pasta with Smoked Salmon: This dish evokes the flavors of blinis with smoked salmon and sour cream, but this time over pasta instead of a tiny canapé! Peas and asparagus lighten and brighten things up. I’m into it.
12 oz. linguine or other long pasta
3/4 tsp. kosher salt, plus more
1 bunch asparagus (about 1 lb.), trimmed, cut into 1″–1½” pieces
1 lb fresh peas shelled (or 1 (10-oz.) bag frozen peas)
4 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cubed
1 Tbsp. finely grated lemon zest
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup sour cream, divided
1 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper, plus more
6 oz. smoked salmon, sliced into ½” strips
1 cup basil leaves
Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until very al dente, 7 minutes (or 2 minutes less than package instructions). Add asparagus and continue to cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add peas and continue to cook until cooked through, about 1 minute more. Drain pasta, asparagus, and peas together, reserving 1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid.
Transfer pasta and vegetables to a large bowl. Add butter, lemon zest, lemon juice, 1/4 cup sour cream, 1 1/2 tsp. pepper, and remaining 3/4 tsp. salt. Toss, adding reserved pasta cooking liquid bit by bit as needed, until a smooth sauce coats pasta (you might not need all the liquid).
Divide pasta among bowls. Top with salmon, basil, and remaining 1/4 cup sour cream. Season with lots of pepper.
Penne Pasta with Ramp* Pesto, Peas & Walnuts: This recipe is full of bright fresh flavors including wild ramps, lemon and chile flakes (if you like heat). It’s most likely what will be on my plate tonight!
Fresh penne pasta
1/2 C sugar snap peas
1 package pea shoots
salt and freshly ground pepper
Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, 5 minutes or according to the package instructions. Drain the pasta, reserving ¼ cup of the pasta water. Meanwhile, trim the sugar snap peas, removing the strings and cut the sugar snap peas in half. Coarsely chop the pea shoots. Cut the lemon into wedges for serving.
In deep sauté pan over medium-high heat, warm 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the sugar snap peas and sauté until nearly tender-crisp, 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
When the pasta is ready, add it to the pan with the sugar snap peas, along with the pesto, half of the cheese, and the reserved pasta water. Toss over low heat until the cheese has melted, 1 minute. Fold in the pea shoots last. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Heap the pasta on plates and sprinkle with some of the remaining cheese, the walnuts, and chile flakes, if you like. Serve warm, with the lemon wedges for squeezing.
* Wild ramps are in season this time of year. They are kinda like a cross between a spring onion and fresh garlic. Simply substitute ramps for basil in the typical pesto recipe (and skip adding additional garlic) and you’ll get a really bright flavorful sauce.
Do you have a favorite spring pasta recipe?