Is it too soon for more pasta?
In our house the answer would be no, so that’s what I’m going to go with here.
I’ve never been much for tomatoes (except in salsa, bruschetta, or ketchup form). Marinara sauce has always made me gag a bit. Just ask my mom who used to roll her eyes at my request for plain noodles and meatballs on spaghetti night.
I’ve come around a little in recent years, though my favorite pasta sauces seem destined to always be cream-based. This one, despite a decent amount of heavy cream still feels light - not filling. Perfect for spring.
I first became aware of the idea of seasonal cooking when we were newlyweds living in Madison. Walking around the Dane County Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings is still one of the things I miss the most. Especially if we could re-live the Saturdays of our pre-kid days, where we could sleep in, roll out of bed, take a lap around the farmer’s market, and return home to make up an omelette or breakfast hash with whatever fresh goodies we’d found that day. (And all served up with a side of hot spicy cheese bread.)
Spring is still the season that eludes me the most as far as cooking goes. I find it difficult to pinpoint the flavors of the season. Summer tastes like cold watermelon and burgers off the grill, fall is everything pumpkin and apple and cinnamon, winter is heavy with soups and stews. But spring? Usually when the first warm stretch hits I’m ready to crank up the grill and find the juiciest watermelon I can find, even if it is April and only 50 degrees.
Spring is lighter, I’m finding. More nuanced. It’s the flavors of ham and peas you see here. It’s all things asparagus and baby greens. It’s some early strawberries if you’re daring. It’s rhubarb, which I’m still learning to like.
Short of strolling around the farmers’ market like we used to, this is about as spring-y as it gets from our local grocery store.. Though I just discovered by adding the link above that you can now order hot spicy cheese bread by mail. Maybe we can recreate a piece of our farmers’ market glory days this weekend after all. This could be dangerous.
Pasta with Prosciutto, Snow Peas, Basil, and Cream
Depending on which kid this is in front of, they admittedly don’t eat much of the snow peas or prosciutto. I usually serve it with a salad and a handful of grapes, so at least they’re eating something fresh with their cream-covered pasta topped with “sprinkle cheese”. Adapted from here.
1 box orecchiette pasta
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 shallots (if big) or 4 shallots (if small)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 pound prosciutto shank, sliced thin and cut into narrow strips
1/2 pound snow peas, ends trimmed and chopped if large
1 -1 1/2 cups cream
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan plus more for topping
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 Tbsp. dried basil
Cook pasta according to package directions.
Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and saute for 2-3 minutes until they just begin to soften. Add garlic and saute for a minute more.
Add prosciutto to pan. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add snow peas and continue to saute for 3-4 more minutes. Stir often so they don’t stick and don’t cook for too long - the peas should still be crunchy.
Add cream and just bring to a boil. Add Parmesan and stir until it’s melted and incorporated, then turn the heat to low. Add salt and pepper to taste, and basil. Let the sauce just barely simmer over low heat while you wait for the pasta to finish.
Drain pasta and toss with the cream, prosciutto, and snow pea mixture. Top with extra Parmesan cheese and devour. Smile, because surely this is what spring tastes like.
The original recipe calls for snap peas (which I can’t stand). I much prefer the lighter, thinner, snow peas to their thick, bulky cousins. If you’re less picky than I am, however, feel free to sub snap peas here.
I’m not really sure how much basil I use. I never measure it out. This is an educated but conservative guess - I’m pretty positive I use more. Add basil to your own taste, but don’t be shy. And if you’re one of those people who manages to have fresh herbs around please go for the fresh stuff.