Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Recipe: Peas & Shells

I love pasta, but I don't always want to eat it the same way (unlike Pat, who is just fine with tomato sauce all the time). The other day, when I knew Pat wasn't going to be home for dinner, I experimented with some ingredients I normally wouldn't use. Like frozen peas:
I never thought I liked peas until I started adding them to pasta!

Anyway, here's the recipe I came up with the other day. Quick & easy with only a few ingredients, this dish packs a lot of flavour! The nutty pesto is especially versatile & would work well with other veggies & pasta shapes.

Peas & Shells

1 cup orecchiette or shell pasta
1/3 cup pecans & pine nuts, or your favourite nuts (I used a mix that was 3/4 pecans & 1/4 pine nuts)
2 cloves garlic
1 shallot or small onion
handful of chopped, fresh herbs: parsley, basil, thyme, rosemary, etc (whatever you have)
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 lemon
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup freshly grated cheese (I used gruyere)
salt & pepper to taste


1. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions until desired level of doneness.
I used orecchiette, but regular shells or any other pasta shape would work just fine - the shells do hold the pesto & peas nicely though.

2. Lightly toast the nuts.
Use the frying pan you plan on using to cook the pesto, a small one will do - just add the nuts in dry & toast on medium-low until fragrant & lightly browned. Shake them around to prevent burning.

3. Meanwhile, zest the lemon & chop your shallot, garlic & herbs. Use whatever herbs you have or can find, though I would recommend using parsley or basil for about half since they have a lighter, more delicate flavour that will balance the stronger herbs, like rosemary or oregano.
I used a generous amount of parsley & basil & one sprig of rosemary. Thyme, oregano, mint, chives and savory would all work well.

4. Once the nuts are toasted, set them aside. Chop them roughly once they've cooled slightly.
Using the same frying pan, heat the oil on medium. Add the shallots & garlic, sauteing for a few minutes, until the onion is slightly translucent. Add in the peas, herbs & lemon zest & saute a few more minutes.
Add in the chopped nuts & cook another minute, until heated through.

5. Remove from heat. Stir in most of the cheese.

6. By now, the pasta should be done. Drain, reserving a half cup of the cooking water. Transfer the pasta to a bowl & toss with the pesto.
Squeeze in some lemon juice & season with salt & pepper. Taste & add more if you like. Add some of the reserved water if the pesto needs thinning.

Serve topped with remaining cheese.

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