Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Petits Pois à la Folie


I've already shared quite a few pea recipes (fresh pea soup; rice with peas; risotto and pasta with peas implied; and so much more...), still I could not resist another pea inspiration! Peas are my ultimate seasonal treat, far beyond asparagus (and I am an absolutely devout asparagophile)! Yet, I could go on and on about how sublimely meditative shelling peas can be; how wonderfully ecstatic I am rendered at the smell of  cooking peas; how silly I get when I see bushels of peas at the market... but I would be repeating myself. You already know how I feel about peas, so on to the food.
 
Freshly shelled peas are like little kernels of explosive candy, and therefore require a recipe that will either emphasize or temper the sweetness. Although I do love the sweet tidbits, today's recipe will be all about toning down the sugar -just a tad- for those of you out there who prefer not to indulge your sweet tooth.

Despite the recent heat wave in Ontario and Southern Quebec, I was craving peas with pasta this past week-end. But not humdrum peas with long pasta and cream sauce: as lip-smacking as that dish can be on a rainy spring day, a knock-you-out scorcher calls for... something meaty that sticks to your ribs. Huh?!!? I know, I had the same reaction when I was told that the best food to beat the heat was a stodgy stew of miso and carp...

...That was ten years ago, I was living in Japan. At the height of summer, I was slowly wasting away in the unbearable heat, and counting down the days to when I'd make my escape back to Canada for a two month respite. Someone handed me a steaming bowl of carp stew, saying it would add pep to my step, revitalize my appetite, and jolt me out of my funk. Oh, how wrong they were. It was rather horrendous: I definitely do not recommend carp stew. However, a pea and mushroom ragù, inspired by the Bolognese, will hit the spot.


This vegetarian Ragù alla Bolognese closely resembles mushroom Goulash, but it is more of a sauce than a dish in its own right. A real bolognese is a fairly dry sauce, with lots of meat, sofrito (a mix of finely diced carrots, onions and celery, somewhat similar to the French mirepoix), just barely enough tomato to bind the whole lot, and a healthy dose of oil to pick up every scrap of flavour. Pea ragù is a saucier interpretation, though it is faithful to its origins.

I like to serve ragù with short, twirly pasta, like the handmade Maccheroni Calabresi pictured left, or the smaller Trofie. However, either pasta can be hard to find unless you live close to an Italian grocery or a specialty food shop. You can substitute any short pasta (penne rigate or rigatoni are good alternatives), or you can go more traditional and use a long, flat  egg pasta such as taglietelle, or even fettucine. Actually, any pasta you like will be scrumptious with the sauce, as long as it is al dente. Cooking time on packages are merely suggestions: for best results, check the pasta 2-3 minutes before the expected time is up. I often find that the pasta is ready in less time than suggested (in fact, one package I recently purchased indicated 9 minutes, but the spaghetti was close to overdone in 6!)

If you are unable to find fresh peas, small frozen peas ('fancy' grade in Canada), or chopped sugar snaps are excellent substitutes. I happened to have dried porcini mushrooms I brought back from a trip to Florence, but you can use any mushroom -fresh or dried- for the recipe; the indicated quantity is approximate, use as much or as little as you like or have. If you choose to use dehydrated mushrooms, soak them in warm water until they become soft, and squeeze out all excess water before adding to the recipe; you can save the soaking water as a stock for another recipe, or water a plant if you can't be bothered.

Fresh Pea Ragù
Serves 4 to 6 rather generously


1 finely chopped onion
½ cup/ 125ml olive oil
2 cups/ 500ml crushed tomatoes
8 pieces sun-dried tomatoes, slivered
1 small handful mushrooms, finely chopped
2 cups/ 500ml shelled peas
3 stalks green onions, finely sliced
3 cloves garlic, new season if possible, crushed
 salt and pepper

Gently fry the chopped onions in the olive oil over medium heat. 
(If you are using regular garlic, add it to the onions when they start becoming translucent.)
When the onions begin to turn golden, add the crushed tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, and mushrooms.
Simmer over medium-low heat until the sauce thickens. It should take about 10-15 minutes. You should be able to see the oil separating slightly, forming pool of a deeper red on the surface of the sauce.
Check the seasoning.
Add the peas, along with the crushed new season garlic, if using. 
Simmer for about 3 minutes. Taste a pea, it should pop in your mouth, just barely cooked, but not crunchy.
Stir sliced green onions into the sauce.
Spoon the ragù over pasta.
Serve with some ricotta cheese or shavings of Parmigiano.




You might need to provide bibs to your diners. If you have any sauce left over (I doubt you will), it will elevate a slice of toasted  whole wheat sourdough to open-faced sandwich heaven.

Bon app'!


2 comments:

  1. Have really enjoyed discovering your blog and would love you to share one of your posts at my new Meme We Can Wednesday.

    ReplyDelete
  2. That would be lovely Greenearth! Thank you! Is there a particular post you would like me to link back to?

    ReplyDelete

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