The first vegetables out of the gate in Spring are usually asparagus, artichokes, chives, and greens like watercress and baby spinach. We utilize a few of them in our Get Cheffy vegetable pasta. As we always say, however, Get Cheffy with it, and use as many of them as you like. A mixture of toasted breadcrumbs with pasta may seem unusual, but this is a lesser known traditional pairing, sometimes referred to as a “Gremolata”. Raw olive oil and parmesan are added to finish the dish off.
FOR THE VEGETABLES:
- 1/2 lb Asparagus rinsed, trimmed, and cut on the bias.
- 1/2 lb Small Green Beans rinsed, trimmed, and cut on the bias.
- These are sometimes referred to as “Petit Haricot Vert” or “Petit Green Beans”. Regular Green Beans can also be used, or you can omit this vegetable entirely, and double-down on the Asparagus.
- 3-4 Scallions minced and divided into their white/light-green parts and dark-green parts
- Chives can also be used by exchanging 1/2 cup of roughly chopped chives for the scallions.
- 1/2 Cup Small Peas.
- Frozen peas work beautifully here; simply rinse them in cold water to gently thaw them before adding to the pasta.
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter.
- 1 Tablespoon minced garlic.
FOR THE PASTA:
- 1 lb of Penne.
- Use any pasta you like, but we like Penne as we can chop our vegetables into similarly sized pieces so all components can easily fit onto a fork at the same time.
- 1 Cup Dried Breadcrumbs.
- 1/4 (4 tablespoons) Extra Virgin Olive Oil (plus more for garnish).
- 4 Tablespoons Lemon Zest (about 4 lemons).
- 1/2 lb Pork Sausage (optional).
- Parmesan (optional garnish).
- Salt and Fresh Ground Black Pepper.
- Begin by browning your sausage (if using) in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. You’ll want to crumble the sausage down to as fine a consistency as possible; we use a potato masher to achieve this texture by gently pressing, and breaking up the sausage as it cooks. After 10-12 minutes over medium heat, your sausage should be cooked and browned. Add your breadcrumbs and, depending on the fattiness of your sausage, add another ~ 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan. Stir to combine, until the breadcrumbs are all evenly coated in oil/fat and resemble a texture of coarse sand; adjust by adding more oil if needed. Continue to cook, and brown over medium/low heat for another 4-7 minutes until your breadcrumbs have taken on color, and the sausage/breadcrumb mixture is cooked through thoroughly. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the sausage/breadcrumb mixture out into a bowl, and add your 4 tablespoons lemon zest to the mixture. Stir to combine, and set aside.
- Wipe out your skillet with a paper towel, if need be, and add your 2 tablespoons of butter over medium/high heat. While your butter melts, bring 4 quarts of water with 1/2 tablespoon table salt to a boil in a large cast iron dutch oven. While you’re waiting for your water to boil, begin sautéing your minced scallion whites/light-greens in butter over medium low heat (keep the darker green scallion portion set to the side until later). After 2-3 minutes stirring occasionally over medium to medium/high heat, add your minced garlic, ~1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, and ~1/2 teaspoon of table salt and cook for another minute. Add your rinsed and chopped green beans and asparagus and stir to combine. Continue to cook over medium to medium-high heat adjusting your burner as needed. These vegetables won’t release much, if any, moisture as they cook, so lower your heat, and don’t be afraid to add a few tablespoons of water/white wine if your vegetables are going too quickly. Continue to cook until al dente (4-7 minutes) and turn off your burners. Add your scallion greens at the end of cooking, and allow them to gently sweat in the residual heat of the pan (if using chives, add them at this point). Set aside. Once your water has come to a boil, drop your penne noddles into the pot to cook. The best, and only recommended, way to test a noodle for its doneness is to remove a noodle from your pot, and taste it. You won’t be “finishing” these noodles in any kind of sauce at the end, so you’ll want to take them to the point where they are fully cooked (10-12 minutes). Once cooked, drain your pasta (reserving a cup of the liquid, if need be), and return your noodles to the cast iron pot with all burners now turned off. Combine your vegetables and butter, and thawed peas to the pot with the noodles, and add your ~2 tablespoons of additional olive oil. Begin to gently stir the noddles and vegetables together being carful not to break your vegetables up too much. Add ~1/3 of your sausage/breadcrumb mixture to the pot and continue to stir. If using, grate parmesan into the pot as you stir to combine with your vegetables and breadcrumbs. If your pot looks overly dry, feel free to add additional olive oil or a few tablespoons of your reserved cooking liquid. After 1-2 minutes of gently stirring, taste a forkful of your dish ensuring you get some noodle and vegetable in your test-bite to taste for salt. Incrementally add additional salt, parmesan, olive oil and any additional breadcrumbs/sausage mixture to your pot until you have something you’re pleased with. Serve, and garnish each portion with any remaining reserved sausage and breadcrumb mixture and additional parmesan.
GET CHEFFY TIP!– One of the primary goals of Get Cheffy is to train our readers in the art of adjustments, and the art of personal tastes and judgement in the kitchen. You’ll see the ~tilde symbol used throughout our recipe guides, as it denotes an approximation. A multitude of variables can change your cooking from the ripeness of the fruits/vegetables you’re using, to the strength of your oven/burners, but, more than anything, personal tastes will dictate what you believe “good food” tastes like. For beginners, when you read, “add XYZ incrementally”, that means to simply er on the side of adding less of XYZ to begin with, taste your progress after each incremental add, and then continue to adjust. Lean on the side of “less is more” because you can always add more of XYZ…..you, generally, cannot take it back out once added, however.