Spring has sprung and although the weather is still a little iffy, and there’s nothing but kale yet at my farmer’s market, my appetite for springy dishes is in full force. I make this dish every year, often for Easter dinner, and it is just as delicious as it is visually appealing.
Of course it’s best when you can find locally grown ingredients, but my impatience got the better of me this time.
Spring vegetable ragout
Adapted from Fine Cooking’s recipe
3/4 lb. rustic egg pasta sheets, such as pappardelle
1 small clove garlic, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
3 cups mixed spring vegetables (such as asparagus, baby carrots, baby turnips, spring onions, and sugar snap peas), trimmed and cut into 1- to 3-inch long pieces (note: if you cannot find spring onions, use the white and light green parts of scallions)
1/2 cup shelled peas or peeled fava beans
1/3 cup loosely packed pea shoots or watercress sprigs; more for garnish
1/4 cup loosely packed chopped mixed fresh herbs, such as basil, chervil, mint, parsley, and/or tarragon; more for garnish (note: in a pinch I’ve substituted dried herbs, and it turns out fine).
4 Tbs. cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1-1/2 tsp. freshly grated lemon zest (note: I usually leave this out or reduce it significantly)
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for garnish (optional)
For the pasta — my grocery store will cut fresh pasta to order, but I have also used dried egg pappardelle for this recipe in the past. Alternatively, you can make the pasta dough yourself, roll it out and cut it into strips — no pasta maker needed. The idea is for it to be a little rustic.
Boil the pasta in lightly salted water until it is just barely done, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. Reserve 2.5 cups of water before straining. Rinse with cold water and set aside.
For the veggies — In a large saute pan, bring the 2.5 cups of reserved water, the minced garlic, 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper and about 1 teaspoon of salt (reduce if water has already been salted) and bring to a simmer over high heat.
Toss in the mixed vegetables, cover, and simmer quickly until they are just tender, about 3-4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon. If using peas, add to the pot and simmer for another 2 or so minutes, until just cooked (this is not necessary if using favas).
Remove lid and continue boiling until liquid is reduced to 1 cup.
When liquid is reduced, add the butter, pasta, vegetables, herbs, watercress, and lemon zest and toss together until everything is heated through, about a minute.
Garnish with extra watercress and fresh herbs, top with freshly grated cheese and enjoy with a nice glass of pinot grigio.