It happens every Spring. After having spent the Winter avoiding most fresh vegetables because they’ve seemingly spent more time in transit than in some distant fields, the farmers markets open and I can barely contain myself. I go with a general idea of what I’d like to buy and return home with two bags full of produce and a loaf of bread. As I unpack Saturday’s harvest, I begin to plan my meals.
In the past, I’ve commented on a couple of blogs that I’m amazed at how we all could look at the same ingredients and “see” different dishes. Nazneen, for example, could take these ingredients and have no trouble creating a tasty pullao. BAM, on the other hand, could easily prepare a flavorful GF stir fry. Then, of course, there’s Katherine and Greg. Heaven only knows the dish they’d create but I guarantee it would be delicious and I wouldn’t be the only one to bookmark the recipe. Me? Every week I break out the flour and start making pasta. The only question in my mind is what vegetables to use for which pasta. And when all is said and done, on Thursday or Friday night, I use leftovers and whatever vegetables remain to make a fresh egg frittata. Come Saturday, with a newly cleaned-out refrigerator, I head back to the market and start the process all over again. Today’s recipe is one of these farmers market pastas.
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Primavera is the Italian word for Spring. Pasta Primavera is a dish that celebrates the freshest of ingredients. It is a true marriage of flavors, with no single taste dominating the rest. To dress the pasta, the “sauce” can be cream-based, oil or butter-based, and even include tomatoes. In short, a pasta primavera can be whatever you would like it to be, so long as the ingredients are fresh.
For today’s recipe, I rendered some guanciale and used the resulting fat as the base of my sauce. Since I was adding scapes, there was no need for garlic but I did add a couple dried red peperoncini to add some heat to the dish. Beyond that, fresh peas, asparagus, and a few mushrooms were added, with a splash of white wine to round out the dish. And just to make sure that they didn’t get “lost”, I grilled the scapes and asparagus spears before adding them to the pasta. Then, after adding a sprinkle of cheese, dinner was served.
And to my fellow Americans, have a happy and safe 4th of July.
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Farmers Market Pasta Recipe
- 3/4 lb (340 g) cooked trenette — any “ribbon” pasta can be used
- 6 to 9 garlic scapes
- 9 to 12 asparagus spears
- 3 oz (113 g) guanciale, chopped — pancetta, prosciutto, bacon, or ham can be used
- dried peperoncini (optional)
- 1/2 lb ( 227 g) fresh peas
- 8 to 12 small mushrooms, halved or quartered depending upon size
- white wine
- salt & pepper
- Pecorino Romano cheese, grated, for serving — Parmigiano Reggiano can be substituted.
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- Clean and heat the barbecue or grill pan
- Lightly coat scapes and asparagus with olive oil
- Place the scapes and asparagus atop the hot grill surface. Cook each vegetable to your liking before removing from heat. When cool, roughly chop both vegetables.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.
- Add the guanciale to a large frying pan over med-high heat. Continue to cook until the fat has rendered and the guanciale is not quite fully cooked.
- Crumble the dried peperoncini by hand before adding to the pan.
- Add the mushrooms and continue to sauté for a few minutes.
- Lower the heat to medium, add a couple of ounces of wine and the peas. Continue to sauté.
- Time the pasta to be just shy of al dente at about the time that the peas are cooked to your satisfaction.
- Drain the pasta, reserving a cup of the pasta water, and add the pasta to the frying pan.
- Add the chopped scapes and asparagus, mix well, and continue to cook until the pasta has reached al dente. Add pasta water if the pan’s contents are too dry.
- Remove to a serving platter, garnish with grated cheese, and serve.
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Be careful not to use too much guanciale. If you do, the taste will become predominant and you’ll be unable to taste much else. I’ve made that mistake and although it is still a very flavorful pasta, it’s also a waste of garlic scapes.
I like a little heat in the dish so I crumbled 2 dried peperoncini that came from the heart of Italy’s peperoncini region, Calabria. You could easily substitute red pepper flakes or skip them entirely, if you like.
Before using the scapes, I trim an inch or two off the bottom of each scape and, because they can get hard and unpalatable when grilled, I trim off each top just above the flower bulge.
I used 3/4 lbs. of trenette pasta because that’s the amount of dough I had left over when I made last week’s ravioli. Use as much, or as little, pasta as you like. The same holds true for the rest of the ingredients.
As the Summer progresses the ingredients will change to include broccoli, chard, cauliflower, and/or whatever else catches my eye as I walk around the market. You can and should do the same with your pasta primavera.
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A word about the pasta …
I have an attachment for my pasta machine that will cut trenette pasta. Used throughout Genoa and Liguria, trenette — not to be confused with trennette — are one of the flat, “ribbon” pastas, this one being about “a silly millimeter thinner” than linguine. Although trenette is traditionally dressed with Pesto Genovese, I like the pasta because it most closely resembles the pasta Mom & Zia cut by hand when I was a boy. I can almost hear Mom’s knife as she quickly cut the rolled sheet of pasta, sfoglia, all the while having a conversation with whomever was in the room or seated at the table. The speed of that blade was truly a marvel, at a rate easily 5 or 6 times my best. And the noodles were all uniformly cut, something I cannot do even when working at a snail’s pace. So I cheated. I bought myself a trenette pasta machine attachment — and one for Zia — and now we can enjoy a dish of pasta just like back in the day.
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Cheaters do prosper sometimes …
When this year’s seedlings didn’t fare so well, I bought heirloom tomato plants from the farmers market. Lo and behold! For the first time in years, I’ll be eating home-grown tomatoes, even if only the tiniest of cherries, on the 4th of July.
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Lucky for us, all is not vegetable at the markets. We are now in cherry season and this year I’m twice blessed. Not only are Michigan’s tart cherries hitting the markets but I’ve a friend that surprised me with enough cherries to make a fantastic pie. Now, I can eat sweet Bing cherries by the fistful but these tart red beauties are meant for pies, muffins, and jam. Pictured on the right is a bit of the pie I made with my friend’s gift. You can see the recipe I followed by clicking HERE.
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Coming soon to a monitor near you …
Rack of Spring Lamb
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