From Scratch: Welcome spring with greens and pasta


Plant when the ground can be worked. I fell for this mantra on the seed packages for a couple of years until I finally wised up.

Spring may have officially begun on March 20, but the ground is still too cold to plant anything outside. This doesn't mean that I can't start thinking about abandoning the heavy meals of winter and moving on to lighter and greener fare.

After making a morning inspection of my yard, I did notice signs of garden rebirth. Both the parsley and chives were sending up their first shoots. This made me hungry for Spring Pasta.

Although local asparagus won't be in the market for a month or so, plenty is available now from parts farther south. Other vegetables are also more reasonably priced, so you won't break the bank with this dish. It comes together in the time it takes to cook the pasta, so you will be able to soak up some spring rays rather than staring down at a sad assortment of root vegetables.

When making the sauce, choose a pot large enough to hold a pound of cooked pasta, as you are going to put the pasta in the sauce, not the other way around. Be sure to salt the pasta cooking water generously.

Also, reserve a cup of pasta water to add to the sauce. The starch in the water will thicken the sauce and make it adhere better to the pasta.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, please never, ever put oil in the water. To prevent the pasta from sticking, stir gently with a large fork while cooking.

When you are ready to begin, assemble the following ingredients.

Spring Pasta

1/2 pound asparagus, washed and drained

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1 medium zucchini cut into small cubes

2 scallions, thinly sliced

1/2 cup frozen peas, defrosted and drained

1 teaspoon salt

pepper to taste

1 pound thin spaghetti

1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

3 tablespoons minced fresh chives

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Before you begin, put on a large pot of salted water to cook the pasta. As the pasta cooks, cut the asparagus on the diagonal into 1/2-inch pieces. Bring a pan of water to a boil, add the asparagus and cook for 2 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the butter and oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute. Stir in the zucchini and scallions, sauteing for 2 minutes. Add the asparagus, peas, salt and pepper, heating through for 2 minutes.

Drain the pasta, reserving one cup pasta water. Add the pasta water to the pot with vegetables and bring to a simmer. Add the pasta and toss. Add the parsley, chives, lemon zest and cheese, and toss again, stirring to coat. Taste for salt and pepper, and then serve immediately.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section.