Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Pasta with Snap Peas and Sage

This recipe is early summer simplicity in a pan. I found it in Local Flavors by Deborah Madison (I plunder the library copy a couple times a year), and really wanted to taste the combination of peas and sage. I also became a believer in toasty, buttery breadcrumbs sprinkled on pasta dishes back in the winter. For some reason I didn’t post that recipe, probably because of poor photos, but this one is going in the books, and going on my table whenever possible.

The original recipe called for shell peas. I almost never use fresh shell peas in a big, cooked recipe because they’re a little too hard to come by and too much work. I prefer to just eat them if I can get them (or grow them and save them from the rabbits), or use them raw in a recipe like this pea and fresh mint salad. I was going to use frozen peas when I remembered that I had plenty of sugar snap peas from the farmer’s market in the refrigerator. Hooray!

I buy sugar snap peas every time I see them at the farmer’s market, beginning in mid-spring. If I don’t have a recipe like this salad, or this salad, or this salad, or this salad in mind, I’ll just eat them like M&M’s (they don’t melt in your hand!). Their sweetness and slight crunch turned out to be wonderful in this simple pasta dish.

Of course, the sage and garlic were delicious, too. I always buy a sage plant for my patio herb garden. It always does well, and I love it in these beans and this bread. Now I have another great use for those dusty-green leaves. And speaking of multi-use ingredients: breadcrumbs. Yum! I made fresh ones by blitzing some of this homemade bread in the food processor. I tossed those crumbs with melted butter and let them toast, then sprinkled them on each serving of pasta and peas.

Buttery, sweet, a little crisp, herby, garlicky, and comfortingly delicious. This recipe is definitely a keeper for the quick summer pasta files. And like all those other simple pasta dishes, it can be varied based on what’s available. But don’t forget about peas and sage!

Pasta with Snap Peas, Sage, and Breadcrumbs

You could replace the wine with additional pasta cooking water if you do not have some on hand.
2 tablespoon butter
½ cup fresh breadcrumbs
8 ounces small pasta shells (or other small, curly pasta)
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup diced onion
2 minced garlic cloves
½ pound sugar snap peas, strings removed, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
½ teaspoon coarse salt, or to taste
½ cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley

1. Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and toss them to coat in the butter. Continue to cook and stir until the breadcrumbs are lightly toasted, about 5-8 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

2. Cook the pasta in boiling salted water. Drain, reserving about a cup of cooking water.

3. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the onion and cook until soft but not yet brown, about 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook and stir about 1 minute more.

4. Add the sugar snap peas, sage and salt. Add about ½ cup pasta water and the wine. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the liquid is reduced by about half and the peas are tender-crisp, about 5 minutes. Stir in the lemon zest.

5. Add the pasta and toss the mixture together to mix well. Cook until heated through. Add more pasta water if the mixture seems too dry. Stir in the parsley. Taste for seasoning, especially salt, and adjust as needed. Sprinkle the toasted breadcrumbs over each serving.

Makes about 4 servings.

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