Asparagus. Spring Peas. Vidalia Onions. In the time it takes to cook the pasta, you have a dish ready to serve.
The asparagus has been stubborn this year. We’ve had a cold, wet spring, even snow this week in higher elevations! We live in a river valley, so we escaped the white, but it was only 40 degrees this morning and I dug out my winter coat to do errands!
However, our local farm has been able to pick asparagus about every third day, assuming a bit of sun now and then. These long-awaited green shoots are precious! Combined with seasonal sweet Vidalia onions, and you can’t go wrong.
Eat locally… most of the time
While I try to eat locally as much as possible, there will always be room in my kitchen for imports: coffee, chocolate, citrus and tropical fruits, and Vidalia onions are all at the top of this list. I’ll gladly send our apples to Georgia in exchange!
Vidalia onions, the official state vegetable of Georgia, are in season from late April to August and available almost everywhere for most of the summer. They are the sweetest of the sweet!
What could be better than a bowl of pasta?
While this pasta can be made as a side dish, it is a full meal in itself. On a chilly spring night, a big bowl of pasta is welcome around my house!
The peas won’t be around for quite some time here, so I make this with frozen peas, one of the treasures of the freezer. They are already cooked, so just thaw them and use.
You can vary this dish many ways. Use just asparagus or just peas, add chopped up arugula or watercress, spice it up with some red pepper flakes, add bacon or sausage or vegetarian alternative. The only essentials are the pasta, the anchovies, and the creme fraiche, but you can omit the anchovies if you are a vegetarian or have a fish allergy, just add a little extra salt.
Use homemade crème fraîche or prepared, and a brown rice or whole wheat pasta.
Serve alongside a vase of colorful tulips to gaze at! (the petals are edible but not very palatable!) Although the cold thwarts garden activity, it ensures the spring flowers will be around for a longer time and that is the gift!
1 lb. brown rice seashell pasta
1 large Vidalia onion, sliced
4 anchovies, rinsed
1/2 lb. asparagus, cut on the diagonal
2 tbsp. red pepper, minced
1 cup peas, fresh or thawed frozen
8 ounces crème fraîche
Grated Parmesan cheese and parsley to garnish
Cook your pasta: Bring a large stockpot of water to the boil, salt it heavily and add the pasta, stirring now and then until it is nearly cooked (al dente). Shell or orecchiette (little ears) pasta work well here, but use what you have on hand, even elbows! I just like the way the peas nestle themselves in the shells or orecchiette.
Prepare your vegetables: Thaw the peas. Cut off and reserve the tips of the asparagus to garnish the finished dish. Break off the woody ends, and cut the spears into diagonal slices. Slice your onion thinly, and finely mice the red pepper. You can use sweet or hot peppers here.
While the water boils: In a large skillet, sauté the asparagus tips in a tablespoon of butter and set aside. Then, add another tablespoon of butter and one of olive oil and sauté the onion. Do not let this color, you just want it softened and cooked through. The aroma will be wonderful.
Chop up the anchovies and add to the pan. Stir until they dissolve into the onions.
Add the asparagus slices and red pepper, and sauté until crisp/tender.
Remove the pasta from the pan and add directly into the vegetables. Stir it together well, and add the crème fraîche and peas.
If needed, thin with a little of the pasta water to get the desired consistency. Salt and pepper, then taste, and correct the seasoning if needed.
Serve with shavings of Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley, and add the asparagus tips to the top.
© Copyright 2019 – or current year, Dorothy Grover-Read, The New Vintage Kitchen.