Fettuccine with Peas and Asparagus
Sweet English peas and asparagus are abundant in the spring, so take advantage of their brief season with this pasta, which pairs these two ingredients with fragrant basil and mildly sweet Meyer lemons. If Meyer lemons aren’t available, you can use regular lemons, but reduce the quantities of juice and zest to adjust for their more tart flavor. Look for fresh fettuccine at well-stocked supermarkets and Italian delis, or make your own from scratch, if you prefer.
- 1 bunch thick asparagus (about 8 spears)
- 1 Tbs. unsalted butter or olive oil
- 2/3 cup (5 fl. oz./160 ml) heavy cream
- Minced zest and juice of 1 to 2 Meyer lemons
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 3/4 cup (4 oz./125 g) shelled fresh English peas
- 1 lb. (500 g) fresh fettuccine
- Leaves from several sprigs fresh basil
- Shaved or grated Parmesan or pecorino romano cheese for garnish
To prepare the asparagus, snap off the tough woody ends of the spears and, if the skin is fibrous, peel it starting from just below the tips. With a sharp paring knife, cut the asparagus on the diagonal into pieces about 1/8 inch (3 mm) thick. In a small sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter or warm the olive oil. Add the asparagus and sauté for 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, add the cream and heat until warm. Add the lemon zest and salt and pepper to taste. Do not allow the mixture to boil.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the peas and cook for 30 seconds. Add the pasta and cook until the pasta is tender and rises to the surface, 30 seconds to 5 minutes, depending on the pasta’s freshness. Stir occasionally so that the noodles cook evenly. Drain the pasta and peas, reserving a few tablespoons of the cooking water.
Return the pasta and peas to the pot and season with salt. Pour the asparagus-cream mixture over the pasta and toss to coat thoroughly. Add the reserved pasta cooking water as needed to loosen the sauce. Tear some of the basil leaves into pieces and add along with lemon juice to taste and additional salt to taste to balance the flavors. Serve at once in warmed pasta bowls sprinkled with additional torn basil leaves and pepper, garnished with cheese. Serves 4.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Bride & Groom Cookbook, by Gayle Pirie and John Clark (Weldon Owen, 2006)