One thing I have come to expect in cooking is that not all of my experiments will turn out favorably. If you’ve been cooking for a little while and are comfortable trying different things and not using recipes, then you also know this to be true. That is why, when a dish turns out right and tastes delicious on the first try, I am always so pleasantly surprised.
I’d been craving goat cheese, peas and mint in a pasta filling for some time and was just waiting for the mint in the backyard that seeds itself each year to spring back into action (pun intended). I harvested the first good sprigs last week and was finally ready to get to work. By then, I wasn’t feeling the filled pasta anymore so I processed some of the mint with the flour for the pasta dough to make minted fettuccine. Instead of a pasta filling I used the peas, goat cheese and mint along with minced shallot, fennel pollen and egg to make a quick dressing that would cook from the heat of the drained pasta when the dish was tossed together. For good measure I sautéed some pancetta and mushrooms to throw in at the end for a little substance.
There was enough of this dish to easily feed two, but it only fed one (me) and was eaten very quickly (read inhaled). It was quickly added to my list of spring staples and it didn’t come from a recipe so don’t think you have to stick to this one. Scallions or spring onions would be delicious in place of the shallot and you could just as easily sub in ricotta for goat cheese and so on.
Are you planning a big Easter meal this weekend? Or perhaps you’ve just finished all of the cooking for your Seder? I am letting myself off the hook this year. The honey baked ham is already ordered and with the addition of some oven baked asparagus and rolls, Easter dinner is served. If you do want to do some cooking this weekend, this pasta is a great way to acknowledge the flavors of spring without putting forth too much effort. Yes I make the pasta from scratch, but if you have a Cuisinart and a pasta machine (even easier with the KitchenAid pasta attachment) then that really isn’t a difficult task.
Minted Fettuccine with Petite Pea Dressing
Serves 2 (in theory)
Leaves from 2 sprigs of mint
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 t salt
1 1/2 t olive oil
Place the flour and salt in a food processor with the mint leaves and blend until the mint is minced and well incorporated. Add the olive oil and eggs and process until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and forms a ball. Flatten dough into a disc about 4 inches across, wrap with plastic wrap and let sit for at least 30 minutes. Process according to your pasta maker directions, using the fettuccine attachment to cut the pasta.
8 oz (half bag) of frozen petite peas
4 oz goat cheese
1 small shallot
1 – 2 t fennel pollen
Leaves from 1 sprig of mint
Salt and pepper to taste
Place all the ingredients aside from the egg in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning, then add the egg and process until incorporated.
Finishing the dish
1 t olive oil
1/3 cup cubed pancetta
1 cup sliced mushrooms
Bring a large, salted pot of water to a boil. While the water is heating, place the oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook for 2 – 3 minutes before adding the mushrooms. Continue cooking until the mushrooms are soft and set aside.
Cook the pasta and begin to check for doneness after just 2 minutes. Fresh pasta cooks much faster than dried. When fully cooked, drain and return to the pot along with the dressing and the mushroom mixture. Toss well until the sauce is warmed through and serve.