What she really wanted me to make was the pasta I had made for Easter, with fave beans and mint pesto. And I actually set off for the market fully expecting to find all these ingredients. But since I shop at the farmers market, I don’t always (usually never) find what I set out for.
Which is ok with me, since my mixed bag of seasonal, local produce forces me to be creative in ways I could never plan ahead of time.
First of all, no mint at the market. And no wild fennel either. But there were incredibly spicy bunches of dark green arugula. So the pesto part was settled in that direction.
And of course hand made orecchiette don’t show up in Rome, but fresh fettucine do. Made with his own eggs, the bright yellow yolks give my favorite vendor’s pasta an almost glow in the dark quality.
Since it’s nearing the end of fave season, I decided that the beans on offer were a bit too big, and too starchy, for this dish. But the peas were just perfect.
fettucine with arugula pesto and peas
1 kilo fresh fettucine
1 kilo fresh peas (weight in pods)
2 bunches of arugula (about 3 to 4 cups)*
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/3 cup roasted almonds
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/3 – 1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 tsp salt (or less)**
1/4 tsp pepper
*I used small bunches of ‘wild’ arugula. It wasn’t really wild, but it was the perennial kind, with smaller, thicker, spicier leaves. Don’t use pre-washed, bagged arugula for this, or it will end up watery and tasteless.
**salt is a tricky thing in pesto. Less is usually better. I ended up using slightly salted almonds (that’s what I had in the house) and remember, when you add cheese, things can get too saltly very quickly.
Clean arugula, cutting off any overly tough stems. Set aside
Take the peas out of their pods, and set aside.
Place the arugula, garlic, salt, pepper and almonds in a food processor. Pulse until well chopped. With motor running slowly add the olive oil. Exactly how much will depend on how big your bunches of arugula are. Add the grated cheese, and mix briefly. Scrap it into a large serving bowl.
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. The next step depends on what type of pasta you are using, and how big your peas are. In this recipe I was using fresh pasta, but it was somewhat thickly cut. I knew it would take about 5 minutes to cook. Instead, my peas were actually quite big, and starchy, so I thought they would take a bit longer to cook, 6 minutes or so. So I put in the peas first, then added the pasta. You want to time things so the pasta and the peas are finished cooking at the same time, without either over cooking.
Drain pasta and peas, reserving a cup of the pasta/pea water. Add about a 1/4 cup to the pesto in the bowl, to loosen it up stirring well. Add the drained pasta and peas, stirring to coat. Add a bit more pasta water if you think it’s a bit dry.