Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sugar Snap Peas and Pasta

Sugar snap peas are one of the vegetables I most look forward to coming into season and they are abundant at the farmer's market now, much to my delight. I'll eat them pretty much any way they are prepared (as long as they aren't overcooked), but this is the first time I've made a pasta dish where the sauce is also composed of peas, as opposed to being tossed in whole. The rich olive oil and salty, savory cheese are balanced perfectly by the fresh flavor of the peas, achieving a flavor profile similar to that of pesto. Because this is a simple sauce, the quality of each of the ingredients is of the utmost importance, so use good olive oil and cheese for the best results. You can either pass the sauce through a chinois or fine mesh strainer to achieve a smooth consistency, but you can also skip that step for a sauce with a more rustic texture, my personal preference. If you're a fan of Meatless Mondays, give this fresh summer pasta dish a try tomorrow for dinner and you won't regret it.

Sugar Snap Peas and Pasta
adapted from Gourmet, via Epicurious
serves 4

1 lb sugar snap peas, trimmed and strings discarded
12 oz. whole wheat penne
1 medium garlic clove, minced and mashed to a paste with 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 oz finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1/2 cup) plus additional for serving

1. Cook sugar snaps in an 8-quart pot of boiling salted water 2 minutes, then transfer 1 cup sugar snaps to a colander and rinse under cold water to stop cooking. Transfer cooled sugar snaps to a cutting board. Cook sugar snaps remaining in pot until tender, about 2 1/2 minutes more, then transfer with a slotted spoon to a bowl. Measure out and save 1 cup cooking water, reserving remaining water in pot.

2. Return cooking water in pot to a boil and cook pasta until al dente, then drain in colander. While pasta is cooking, cut 1 cup sugar snaps (on cutting board) crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces. Purée half of sugar snaps from bowl, half of garlic paste, 2 tablespoons oil, 1/4 cup cheese, and 1/4 cup saved cooking water in a blender (use caution when blending hot liquids), then force purée with a rubber spatula through a medium-mesh sieve into a large bowl, if desired (I actually like a rustic, chunky texture). Purée another batch in same manner, forcing through sieve into bowl, and add cut sugar snaps.

3. Toss hot pasta with sugar snap sauce and, if necessary, enough of remaining 1/2 cup saved cooking water to thin sauce to desired consistency, then season pasta with salt and pepper.

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