Oh, weekends. Let me count the ways you are wonderful (why you gotta be so short?). It is glorious in fair Brooklyn today; the sun is shining, the air is light, and there’s a beautiful lazy quality to the day. I just don’t want it to end because this is living, people, and I want to live it right.
This spring vegetable pasta is perfect for days like these — comes together quickly, packs a lot of flavor into just a few ingredients, and is easily alterable to suit whatever your vegetable fancy. Not feeling peas? Use asparagus instead. Don’t like asparagus? Throw in some artichoke hearts. Any ol’ vegetable will do. You can have whatever you liiiiiiiike (just ask T.I.).
Spring Vegetable Pasta with Lemon & Ricotta
You will need:
freshly ground black pepper
½ stick unsalted butter
2 medium leeks, white & pale green parts only
½ pound sugar snap peas, trimmed and cut in half (you can use frozen peas as a substitute and/or literally any other vegetables)
¾ pound dried pappardelle pasta (or other flat egg noodles)
½ cup fresh ricotta cheese
¾ cup freshly grated pecorino romano cheese
Before you start cooking, the first thing you need to do is prepare the leeks. And by prepare, I mean clean them because they are dirty, dirty vegetables. The last thing you want is to bite into your delicious spring pasta and get a mouthful of dirt instead, so this is a worthy step. To clean them thoroughly, first take a sharp knife and cut off the dark green stalks on both of your leeks (you only want to cook the white and pale green parts). You should be left with two 4 to 6 inch long stalks that resemble giant green onions. Cut each of these stalks in half length-wise (you should now have four 4 to 6 inch long stalks that are half-moon shaped). Next, thinly slice each leek across the stalk into small half-moons about 1/8 inch wide. Grab a large bowl and fill with cold water, then place all of your sliced leeks in the water. Swirl them around with your hands to clean. The leeks will float, and as you stir them, the dirt will settle in the bottom of the bowl. Leave the leeks in the water to soak and clean further until you’re ready to cook them.
Next, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. While the water is heating, take a large skillet and melt the butter over medium-high heat. When the butter is fully melted, add the leeks (I usually just grab them from the water and shake them a bit before putting them in the pan, but you can use a strainer or a slotted spoon too) and a pinch of salt. Cook the leeks, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften, about 4 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium, and continue to cook until very tender, about another 5 minutes. Turn heat to low and finely grate zest of the two lemons directly over the leeks in the skillet, followed by a generous seasoning of pepper.
When the water is boiling, add the peas and cook until bright green, about 2 minutes. Transfer peas to skillet using a strainer or slotted spoon. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until just tender, about 4 minutes (you want the pasta to still have a little ‘bite’ to it since it will cook more in the skillet). When the pasta is cooked, transfer to the skillet using tongs or a strainer, but do not drain the pasta water.
With the heat still on low, gradually stir in ½ cup pasta water, followed by the ricotta cheese and about half of the pecorino, followed by up to another ½ cup of pasta water if it’s looking a little dry. Toss the mixture until the pasta is coated and the sauce is creamy. Turn off the heat, and dish the pasta into a serving bowl, topping with the rest of the pecorino and another grind of fresh pepper. Serve immediately.
Maybe enjoy it barefoot on your patio with a glass of wine and the last golden light of the day. That’s where I’ll be. Come on over, I’ll save you a seat.