I saved this for last in my series of spring pasta recipes, since it is my favorite of the group. Cooking the pasta like risotto is an ingenious idea for developing a creamy sauce without the need for actual cream.
The flavors in this dish are so fresh and tangy, with the mint, lemon, asparagus and snap peas combining to create an ideal spring-flavored pasta.
America's Test Kitchen's technique for cooking pasta like risotto creates a creamy “sauce” without the addition of cream. I adapted the recipe by substituting fresh sugar snap peas for frozen peas, using shallots instead of leeks, and omitting the chives.
An interesting part of this recipe is the stock, which consists of vegetable broth further enhanced by flavors in this dish by simmering it with the tough asparagus ends, which would normally just get pitched, and some of the snap peas.
Asparagus-Snap Pea Pasta
Adapted from Spring Vegetable Pasta, Cook’s Illustrated
1 lb asparagus, cut on the bias into ½ inch pieces
1 lb sugar snap peas, string removed and copped into ½-inch pieces
3 shallots (1 coarsely chopped, 2 finely chopped)
4 garlic cloves (2 smashed, 2 minced)
4 cups vegetable broth
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb. casarecce pasta (can use farafelle or penne—any bite-size pasta will do)
1 cup white wine
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2 teaspoons lemon zest and juice from ½ lemon
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Ricotta salata, shredded
1. Bend asparagus stalks to break at their natural breaking point and chop the thicker stalk ends (the ones without the tips) into 1-inch pieces. Add chopped asparagus stalks to a large saucepan with about ¼ the of sugar snap peas chopped in half, one shallot coarsely chopped and 2 smashed garlic cloves. Add 4 cups vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer covered for about 10 minutes. Strain broth into an 8-cup liquid measuring cup and press on solids to retain as much stock as possible. Add water as needed to the measuring cup to total 5 cups of liquid. Return stock to pan, keeping warm over low heat. Discard solids.
2. In a large, deep saute pan or dutch oven heat 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Saute the finely chopped shallots about 4-5 minutes until softened. Add asparagus and snap peas; cook another 4 minutes. Add 2 minced garlic cloves and cook another minute. Remove vegetables from pan.
3. In the same pan, heat 4 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add pasta and cook stirring frequently for about 5 minutes until pasta starts to brown. Add wine and cook, stirring frequently, until wine evaporates—about 2 minutes.
4. Add vegetable stock (all at once) and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring frequently, until stock is mostly evaporated to form a thickened sauce with the pasta—about 8 minutes later. Turn off heat. Add cooked vegetables, mint, lemon juice, zest, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve in pasta bowls topped with ricotta salata.