The sunlit snow and somewhat warmer days as we enter March have me daydreaming of early spring produce — asparagus, peas and shoots; tender greens and the first bulbs of garlic and onion. While it's not quite planting season for us, here's a taste of spring to get you ready for the months ahead.
Both fresh and dried pasta work well here, just make sure to cook it al dente, which offers textural contrast to the tender vegetables and soft cheese. I like topping the pasta with a hit of fresh greens, such as bitey arugula or a handful of fresh herbs, including tarragon, chervil and mint. Homemade fresh ricotta is easier than you might think, but store-bought is fine — just try to get your hands on a high-quality ricotta cheese, such as Bellwether Farms or Calabro. And in a pinch, fresh mozzarella or burrata cheese are good as well. For a more substantial meal, serve with roasted salmon or chicken.
Spring pasta with ricotta and arugula
Makes 4 to 6 servings
16 ounces wide noodles, such as campanelle or pappardelle
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small shallot, halved and thinly sliced or 1 bunch green onion, ends trimmed and whites and some of the green, thinly sliced
2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 small jalapeño or serrano chile, stem removed, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 pound fresh peeled fava beans, English peas, or edamame (if using frozen, add at the last minute)
Zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup heavy cream or crème fraiche (optional)
1 (12-ounce) Whole Milk Basket Ricotta, such as Bellwether Farms
Fresh grated nutmeg
1 small bunch fresh arugula or other favorite spring greens
Garnishes: Extra virgin Olive Oil; finishing salt, such as Alaska Pure Original
Sitka flake salt or Maldon flake; hot pepper flakes; Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Variations: Toss cooked pasta with your favorite pesto before proceeding with recipe; add fresh tomatoes and a scattering of Pecorino Romano cheese; top with leftover roasted salmon or chicken.
1. Place a large pot of water over high heat. Add about 1 teaspoon salt and bring water a full boil. Add pasta, and cook, stirring occasionally until just al dente. Depending on pasta type, set timer once the water comes back to a boil, and cook pasta for 1 minute less than the package instructions.
2. While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil and butter in a large ovenproof sauté pan or skillet set over medium-high heat. Add shallot and cook, stirring occasionally, 1 minute. Add garlic and jalapeño; sauté 30 seconds. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Add fresh favas or peas and turn off heat until pasta is cooked. When pasta is ready, heat pan with shallot and garlic to medium-high; remove pasta from pot of water using a large slotted spoon and place hot cooked pasta directly into pan with shallot and garlic. Toss together. Add lemon zest and favas or peas. Stir in heavy cream or crème fraiche, if desired, or juice from half of the lemon. Taste and add more salt or pepper, as needed.
3. Heat broiler to high. Drop large spoonfuls of ricotta over the pasta. Grate some fresh nutmeg (just a light dusting) over and place pan in oven; broil until cheese starts to turn golden and bubble. Remove from oven and top with arugula and drizzle with olive oil; garnish with finishing salt and hot pepper flakes, if desired. Serve with fresh grated Parmesan cheese.
Kim Sunée is the bestselling author of "Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home" and "A Mouthful of Stars." Her newest book, "Everyday Korean" is available at bookstores and through her website at kimsunee.com. For more food and travel, visit instagram/kimsunee.