Let it Snow, I’ll Eat Peas Anyway

It’s spring in the Midwest and therefore snow is falling in flurries.  Frosty stars punctuate the tangled curls in my hair and tickle my eye lashes.  At the same time, robins play on the tender lawn and squirrels hop along paint-chipped fence posts.

There is not a single fresh pea to be found just yet and that’s okay.  Fresh mint is wrapped in bundles at the grocery store and the frozen aisle has the little green morsels that I am craving.

This dish was more than I expected.  I was ready to welcome the lightness of the broth, the daintiness of the pasta, the grassiness of ricotta and the wakefulness of mint.  But I got so much more when, following the recipe, I added to the broth the full amount of cooked pasta.  It became less of a soup and more of a heartier couscous dish.  And you know what?  It was perfect.  Just right for this time of year that seems to want to hold on a bit longer to the chill, even as nights grow shorter.

With my leftovers, I’ll top it off with a poached egg, bring on that cracked pepper, that drizzle of olive oil and feel my weary winter bones soften into spring.

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Fregola with Green Peas, Mint, and Ricotta

Bon Appétit, April 2015

4 servings

  • 1 1/4 cups fregola (I used acini di pepe, or as I grew up calling it: acini di peep!)
  • kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 2 oz. bacon (about 3 slices), chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cup dry white wine (Sauvignon Blanc is a good one)
  • 2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth (I like Swanson’s unsalted cooking chicken stock if I’m out of my own)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup shelled fresh peas (from about 1 lb. pods) or frozen peas, thawed
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint, plus leaves for serving
  • 4 oz. ricotta

First cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling water (watch it doesn’t boil over) until very al dente.  Start tasting after 4 minutes or so.  Scoop out about a cup of the pasta cooking liquid, then drain the pasta.  Do not rinse.  Put the pasta in a bowl right away, otherwise it will stick to the strainer and that’s a pain.

Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet over medium and cook bacon, stirring often, until bacon is brown around the edges, about 5 minutes.  Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until bacon is crisp and onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.

Use these times as a guide only.  Use your senses to be sure. (Including smell — if you’re paying attention, your nose will tell you when something is about to go from golden to burnt.)

Add wine, bring to a simmer, and cook until skillet is almost dry, about 5 minutes.  Add broth and bring to a simmer.  Add pasta a little at a time, stopping when you feel it’s enough, and cook, stirring often, until pasta is just al dente and broth is thickened, about 5 minutes.

Taste and season with salt and pepper.  Add peas and chopped mint and cook, stirring until peas are warmed through, about 2 minutes.  Add pasta cooking liquid as needed to adjust consistency (I didn’t need any).

Here’s my favorite part!  Serve topped with ricotta, mint, cracked pepper and drizzled with olive oil.

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