Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Pasta with Spring Vegetables

Right now the pile of cooking magazines I have received and have yet to read is growing pretty tall.  I'm actually kind of sitting on the magazines right now, and they're sort of cramping my style...

Before I was sitting on the magazines, though, while they were still scattered about, Erik was flipping through our most recent Food and Wine (I'm MONTHS behind on that magazine!), and stumbled upon tonight's recipe: Farfalle with Spring Vegetables.  I was immediately smitten, as it contains many of my favorite veggies, notably broccolini and fennel, plus a host of other yummy things, like scallions, garlic, and peas.  

For our first go-around we followed the recipe to a T (tee?), other than adding an extra clove of garlic, and an extra scallion, (because we had 3, and who wants just 1 leftover scallion sitting around?  Not I.)  Okay, and I only used 3 tablespoons of butter, and I didn't measure my olive oil, or herbs, and I used dried tarragon, and I put cheese on top, because I always put cheese on pasta...  So I lied, I mostly followed the recipe.  And wow, it's good.  But I think my improvisations made it better :)  If you're a garlic fiend (like me), you could easily bump this recipe to 3-4 cloves, not the 1 that the actual recipe calls for, but regardless, use at least 2--1 just doesn't cut it!  Additionally, I think the recipe needs a bit more lemon juice--1 tablespoon doesn't add enough pop to such a large quantity of pasta and vegetables.  I find that lemon juice's acidity helps highlight the butter's richness, plus is tastes fantastic, which is why I suggest adding lemon wedges for serving, so you can juice as you see fit.  As for the herbs, I used fresh parsley and chives, but dried tarragon.  While fresh herbs are always best, I think that dried tarragon is nearly as flavorful as fresh, so I didn't feel bad substituting.  However, I don't find either dried parsley or chives particularly flavorful, so definitely stick with fresh on those.  The one thing that I wouldn't change at all are the herbed breadcrumbs that you sprinkle on top--they really took this recipe to the next level.  I was having trouble not eating those by the spoonful while I was waiting for the rest of the dish to cook!  They add crunch and oily richness, and man oh man, they are so yummy!  This recipe is quick enough for a weeknight (about 45 minutes total), but a big enough and tasty enough to serve to friends.  So you should, and tell me what you think! 

Farfalle with Spring Vegetables (Adapted from Food and Wine, May 2010)
Serves 4-6 

* 2 slices of white sandwich bread, finely chopped (1 cup)
* 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
* 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
* 2 tablespoons snipped chives
* 1 tablespoon chopped tarragon
* Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
* 1 bunch broccolini
* 1 pound farfalle
* 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 2 or 3 garlic cloves, minced
* 1 fennel bulb, halved, cored and thinly sliced--a mandolin is great for the slicing, if you have one.
* 3 scallions, thinly sliced
* 1 cup frozen peas, thawed, or 1 pound fresh peas, shelled
* 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus lemon wedges for serving
* Parmesan, Pecorino Romano, or your favorite hard cheese, grated, to sprinkle on top (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350°. On a baking sheet, toss the bread with 1/4 cup of the oil and toast for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring once, until golden. Let cool, then stir in half each of the parsley, chives and tarragon. Season the crumbs with salt and pepper.

2. In a pot of boiling salted water, cook the broccolini until tender, 1 minute.  Using tongs, transfer to a cutting board and coarsely chop. 

3. Add the pasta to the broccolini water and boil until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.

4.  While the pasta cooks, melt the butter and the remaining 6 tablespoons of oil in a deep skillet.  Add the garlic, fennel, scallions, peas and broccolini and cook over moderate heat until the fennel is crisp-tender, about 6 minutes. 

4. Add the pasta, lemon juice and cooking water and season with salt and pepper. Cook over moderate heat until the water is nearly absorbed. Stir in the remaining herbs. Sprinkle the pasta with the bread crumbs and cheese (if using) just before serving.

(If you want to make this dish ahead of time, Food and Wine informs me that the pasta can be kept at room temperature for 4 hours, and the crumbs can be stored at room temperature overnight.)


  1. Where did you find fennel? I have such a hard time getting it anywhere on the island. I've asked Bartlett's why they don't grow it and they said it doesn't yield enough and as for Stop N Shop, y'never know what will be there. But I love to cook with fennel...help me out :)

  2. I pretty much only go to the Stop n Shop, and I find it there about 90% of the time. I guess I just get lucky?

  3. Is it near the endive? That's the closest relative of fennel that I can find there. Seriously - if you're there and see fennel in the produce aisle - please text me

  4. Bought some there tonight! Sorry I didn't see your message in time to text you :) It's about 2/3 of the way down on the right hand side of the veggie aisle. I can't remember what it's near, carrots and leeks, perhaps?