Fresh spring peas, pasta and mint combine for an easy springtime weeknight dinner.
Every time I remember to ask my 9-year-old son if he’d like to help make dinner, I wish I did so more often. He embraces even the most mundane cooking tasks — measuring, chopping, stirring and learning how to check for doneness. Sometimes he makes suggestions of how to do something or what we might add (or omit) that would have never occurred to me. He loves peas, mint and pasta, so this simple, delicious, springtime dish is a winner all around. He shells the peas, picks the mint and tears up the leaves. He grates the cheese, tastes the pasta for doneness and feels fully invested in dinner!
Pasta with Peas, Parmesan and Mint
Serves 3-4 as a light main course
Peas and mint are a classic combination and combined here with some Parmesan and a little starchy pasta cooking water, they come together into a luscious sauce.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cups freshly shelled English or shelling peas, available around the start of May at local markets.
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon butter
½ pound fettuccini or spaghetti or stout, shaped pasta, like penne or fusilli
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan or other aged, grating cheese
cup packed fresh mint leaves, torn or roughly chopped
1. Heat a skillet with the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and 1 ½ cups of the peas and cook until softened, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Turn the heat down if the vegetables begin to brown.
2. Place cooked peas and onions in a food processor and pulse until coarsely pureed. Season generously with salt and pepper, and set aside.
3. Melt the butter in the sauté pan, add the remaining peas, and cook slowly until just softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the pea puree to the whole peas and set aside.
4. Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water. Just before the pasta is done, pour cup or so of the starchy cooking water into the pan with the pea puree and stir to loosen the sauce. Cook the pasta until al dente and drain well, reserving a little more pasta cooking water in case you need to thin the sauce further. Immediately toss the pasta into the pan with the pea mixture and place over medium heat. Stir gently to mix well, adding a little pasta water to achieve the correct texture, not too dry and not too wet. Add the cheese and mint leaves, and toss to combine. Serve immediately.