When it comes to fresh springtime vegetables, we're still in between seasons. Spring is coming, sure, but I still find myself improvising to create bright, beautiful main dishes. That being said, this particular improvisation will make you feel as if a new season has surely sprung. At a Berkeley cafe last week, I had a really simple pasta dish with a bit of cream, Parmesan, toasted pine nuts and prosciutto. It was satisfying yet light at the same time with a little bit of saltiness from the prosciutto and Parmesan and toastiness from the pine nuts. Later that week, I decided to experiment and make the dish in my own kitchen, but I wanted desperately to work in some color &mdash some fresh vegetables.So I ended up adding arugula for a little zip and frozen peas (although I would have loved to add fresh peas had they been available). I used fettuccine because it's such a nice sturdy noodle that holds its own with the addition of heavy cream, and also helps the delicate arugula soften as the dish comes together. The result is a light spring pasta that makes a satisfying lunch or a light dinner and will allow you to daydream, if just for a while, about the sunnier days to come.
I happen to live alone and make a small batch of this pasta that's perfect for two (or one, with leftovers). For a family of four, simply double the recipe below. Adding the hot pasta on top of the arugula is critical as it helps in wilting and softening the greens.
1/4 pound fettuccine
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup heavy cream, warmed
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
3/4 cups arugula
1/4 cup freshly cooked peas
1/4 cup shredded prosciutto
Kosher salt and freshly-ground pepper
Lay the arugula on the bottom of a medium-sized serving dish.
Place the fettuccine in a boiling pot of water and cook until al dente. Pour into a colander to drain. Pour drained pasta on top of the arugula and add the warm heavy cream, butter, and Parmesan. Stir quickly to combine and wilt the arugula leaves.
Add the peas, pine nuts, and prosciutto and toss until well mixed. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve while piping hot.