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Pasta with English Peas and Morels

This dish features many small elements, each bursting with health benefits. Dainty English peas should be kept in their shells until just before cooking time to retain freshness and vitamins. If meaty morels are not available, substitute cremini or shiitake mushrooms—all three varieties are equally potent in cancer-fighting selenium. Aromatic basil and a light dusting of Parmigiano-Reggiano complete this spring meal.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 tsp. salt, plus more, to taste
  • 8 oz. (250 g) ditalini or other small tube pasta
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 4 oz. (125 g) morel mushrooms, halved lengthwise
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup (2 1/2 oz./75 g) shelled English peas (about 1/2 lb./250
      g unshelled)
  • 4 Tbs. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh basil leaves

Directions:

Bring a pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the 1/2 tsp. salt and the pasta and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml) of the pasta cooking water.

In a large fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the mushrooms and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms absorb the oil, about 5 minutes. Add the broth and cook until the liquid is reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Add the peas and cook just until tender, about 3 minutes.

Add the pasta to the pan along with 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) of the reserved cooking water, 3 Tbs. of the cheese, the lemon zest and 1 Tbs. of the basil. Stir to combine. Add more cooking water if needed to achieve the desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer the contents of the pan to a serving bowl or individual plates, sprinkle with the remaining 1 Tbs. cheese and 1 Tbs. basil and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Healthy Dish of the Day, by Kate McMillan (Weldon Owen, 2014).