pasta with asparagus, morels, favas or peas…improvise!

fava beans being shucked Sally Schneider

photo: maria robledo

This weekend when we go to the farmer’s market, we will have Tubetti Pasta with Asparagus,  Morels and Fava Beans from Sally’s award-winning cookbook A New Way to Cook in mind. It the perfect spring-into-summer pasta recipe because it lends itself to endless improvisation, depending on what look’s best in the market, or how much energy we have.

It plays on an essential principle of improvisational cooking:  most foods harvested in the same season — in this case asparagus, morel mushrooms, and various members of the pea family— have an affinity for one another.

The recipe is built on a basic technique: braising the vegetables in a flavorful fat and a little water, then tossing them together with small tubetti pasta and fresh herbs. If you’re pressed for time, use the essential method as a foundation and use only one or two of the vegetables or whatever else looks good in the market. Or swap out like vegetables: use other firm mushrooms like maitake instead of morels.

Shucking fava beans or peas can be a delight when done with friends, but if you’re pressed for time, frozen peas are a fine stand-in.

For those who want to improvise, here’s the basic approach:

-cook sliced pancetta or bacon slowly until the fat has melted out (you can also just use olive oil)

-saute garlic and shallots in the fat

-then braise whatever vegetables you like in the mix, adding the longer-cooking ones first

-toss the vegetables with cooked pasta, using some of the pasta water to mix with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

 

Recipe: Tubetti with Asparagus, Morels, and Favas (or peas or sugar snaps)

Serves 4

-1 1/2 pounds fava beans or 1 and 1/2 pounds fresh peas, or 1/2 pound sugar snap peas (*see Preparation Instructions below)  OR 1/2 pound frozen peas

-1 1/2 ounces pancetta or thick-sliced bacon, cut into 1/4 inch dice (about 1/3 cup), OR 1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

-2 shallots, finely chopped

-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

-3/4 pound tubetti or small shell pasta

-1 pound thin asparagus, tough bottom parts broken off and discarded, sliced on a diagonal into 1.5 inch pieces

-3 tablespoons water

-4 ounces fresh morels

-4 ounces fresh pea shoots (optional)

1/4 cup fresh minced chives, flat leaf parsley, and chervil, in any combination

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

 

In a medium nonstick skillet, cook the pancetta, covered, over low heat, stirring occasionally, until it has rendered out its fat and is crisp, about 8 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Add the shallots and garlic to the pan, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt well. Stir in the pasta and cook until al dente (tender but still slightly firm to the bite). Drain well.

While the pasta is cooking, set the garlic-shallot mixture over moderate heat. Add the asparagus and the water, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the asparagus are tender with a slight crispness, about 5 minutes. Stir in the morels, pancetta, and sugar snaps, if using them. Cover and cook for two minutes, or until the morels are tender. (If necessary, remove from the heat until the pasta has finished cooking.)

Increase the heat to moderately high and stir in the fava beans or fresh peas, if using, and the pea shoots, if using. Cook, stirring and tossing, until the favas are heated through and the pea shoots are just wilted. Stir in the herbs and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Toss the pasta with the vegetables and serve at once, passing the Parmigiano-Reggiano on the side.

To get some of the work done in advance, you can prepare the vegetables 6 hours ahead; store, well wrapped, in the refrigerator. You can render the pancetta and cook the garlic and shallots up to 3 hours ahead. Set aside at room temperature.

* Preparation Instruction for favas, sugar snap peas or fresh peas:

If using fava beans, use your thumb to break open the pods along the seam and dislodge the beans inside. The beans have a thin membrane that can easily be removed if you loosen the skins by blanching the beans. Cook the beans in rapidly boiling water for 1 to 2 minutes, depending on the size. Drain and plunge them into ice cold water to stop the cooking. Drain again and use your thumbnail to break open the skin at one end of each bean and peel it back. Press the bean gently and it will pop right out. Set aside.

If using sugar snap peas, remove the stem ends, then slice them on an extreme diagonal into 1/4 inch-wide slices. Set aside.

If using fresh peas, shell them. Set aside.

Related posts:
3 crazy-simple summer desserts from ‘a new way to cook’ (and a reminder to enter our giveaway)
recipe: strawberries in beaujolais sauce
‘a new way to cook’ giveaway + recipe: classic coleslaw
artichokes = spring is here! (revised) with recipe

One Response to pasta with asparagus, morels, favas or peas…improvise!

  1. Louisa 05.03.2013 at 5:43pm #

    Harold McGee recently explained on Evan Kleiman’s Good Food show on KCRW that if you add a small amount of baking soda to the cooking water for fava beans, those tricky thin peels come right off. You can hear the show here:

    http://blogs.kcrw.com/goodfood/2013/03/this-week-on-good-food-nam-prik-vegan-celebrities-molecular-gastronomy-at-home/

    Look for the link to the section on peeling favas.

    I haven’t tried this yet, but if it works, I will be adding more fava beans to my spring menus. They are so labor intensive to prepare that I tend to use them rarely, almost as a condiment, rather than a full veg dish.

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