Recipe: Pasta with Mint Pesto, Peas and Ricotta Salata

(Image credit: Sara Kate Gillingham)

Are you still getting fresh peas? We aren’t either, but peas are one of the things I like to eat year-round because frozen peas are often so much sweeter and fresh, actually, than fresh peas. What? It’s because frozen peas are frozen so quickly after harvest, while fresh spring/early summer peas from the market are already a day or two old by the time you buy them, let alone shell and eat them.

Here’s an ultra simple pasta dish inspired by a dinner out at Otto in NYC a few week ago. I don’t think it’s terribly close to Mario Batali’s version, so just consider it an under-the-influence-of Batali recipe.

Of course, just about any pasta shape will do, but a small cut shape complements this sauce best. Try shapes like penne, ziti, gemelli, strozzapretti, etc. What you see in the image above is a shape called trofiette.

Pasta with Mint Pesto, Peas and Ricotta Salata
serves 4-6 as a small lunch or first course

1/2 pound dry pasta
2 cups fresh or frozen (defrosted) peas
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
1/3 cup packed fresh mint leaves, plus nice mint tops reserved for garnish
1/4 pound ricotta salata, shaved into shards
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

In a small saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium low. When hot enough that a piece of chopped garlic sizzles, add rest of garlic and sauté for 30 seconds, stirring. Don’t let brown.

In a blender with a lid, add cooked garlic and its oil, remaining oil, and mint leaves. Set pesto aside.

Meanwhile, get the water going for the pasta. Add a dash of salt once it boils and cook the pasta according to instructions. In the last 30 seconds of cooking, drop the peas in, bring back to boil, then drain and toss with pesto. Top with shards of ricotta salata and a few cracks of pepper. Garnish with mint tops and serve.