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Spinach and Sweet Pea Pasta

April 15, 2009

Spinach and Sweet Pea Pasta

I don’t need to say it again, do I? In Boston, our farmers’ markets are still a long way away. Things aren’t really growing yet. Eating locally without eating potatoes is still a distant dream. So, a message to all the food writers out there in happier climes: Stop taunting me with all your joyous greenery and ramps and asparagus and small, alive things poking their little heads out of the ground.

Alright, maybe I should just stop reading if it saddens me so much, right? Or, I can use the bounty of others as inspirations in these last, dragging days of winter here in New England, and create a light, simple, verdant pasta dish that lets me pretend like it’s spring, even if none of its ingredients are really fresh from the ground. As you can see, I decided to take the second course.

I’ve been eating spinach throughout the winter. I read that, like kale, it can be hearty enough to survive frosts. Now, what we had here in Boston was far beyond “frost.” It was downright evil. But, perhaps because of its heartiness, spinach freezes wonderfully, and if you think ahead when it’s growing abundantly, you can eat local greenery all winter long.

Sauteeing spinach

I didn’t do that. I bought frozen spinach from the supermarket all winter, and, more often than not, big bags of fresh spinach shipped all the way from California, which is what I used for this pasta. With frozen sweet peas and a generous squeeze of lemon juice, spinach seems downright spring-like. And a splash of cream makes this whole dish silky and slightly elegant. And it takes only about 20 minutes all together, so if it is nice where you are, you’ll have plenty of time after dinner to go out and enjoy it.

You can do this with either frozen or fresh vegetables, so whether you’re in a place where the spinach is already coming out of the ground or not, you can enjoy this lovely green dinner, something I’ve been thinking of as a bridge between root cellar winter food and the joys of spring. Which will be here, someday, I hope.

Spinach and Sweet Pea Pasta
I adapted this from a much more summery recipe in Bon Appetit. Stop teasing me, Bon Appetit.

  • 1 1/2 to 2 c. pasta (I used Cavatappi and whole-wheat elbows)
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 or 2 small shallots, sliced
  • 2 heaping c. spinach, trimmed
  • about 1 c. frozen sweet peas
  • about 1/4 to 2/3 c. heavy cream
  • juice and zest from 1/2 a lemon
  • salt
  • about 1/2 c. grated Parmesan

Put a pot of salted water on to boil while you prep your vegetables. The spinach doesn’t take much longer to cook than the pasta itself (about 8 to 10 minutes), so you want everything to be ready to hit the skillet when you add the pasta to the boiling water. Not that there’s a lot of prep involved, here.

Heat the olive oil in the skillet. Once the pasta’s in the water, add the shallots to the hot olive oil, and saute them for about a minute, or until they are soft and starting to become translucent. Add the spinach in big handfuls, stirring and letting it wilt enough to leave room before adding more. It always amazes me how so much spinach can become…so little spinach. It’s like kitchen magic.

Keep sauteeing the spinach until it’s mostly wilted, probably about five minutes, then add the frozen (or fresh) peas. Cook until the peas are mostly warmed through, another minute or two, then add in just a small amount of cream. You don’t want to douse the stuff, just add enough to lightly coat the spinach and thicken up in to a bit of sauce in the bottom of the skillet. Let the skillet come to a low boil and thicken while the pasta finishes cooking. Drain the pasta and stir it all into the skillet, mixing well. Add the lemon juice, lemon zest, Parmesan, and salt to taste, and there you go: a bridge to spring in a bowl.

Spinach and Sweet Pea Pasta

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 16, 2009 10:37 am

    Interesting – just Tuesday I made a pasta dish with Peas.
    Mine was pasta, tossed with shallots, salmon & peas in a suace of lemon juice, zest, roasted garlic and sour cream. I was very happy with it considering it was a spur of the moment mash-up of things I had in the house…

  2. April 17, 2009 1:00 pm

    That looks so green and healthy! And I see nothing wrong with frozen peas. I use them for most of the year, except for the two weeks when the fresh peas are good.

  3. April 30, 2009 5:55 am

    A wonderful dish Laura.

    Hopefully Massachusetts isn’t too far behind Pennsylvania. I went to the Farmers Market just yesterday and the pickins were slim there too!!! I need to have more patience I suppose:)

    P.S. I’ve added you to my blogroll! I’m really liking your blog:)

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