Find dinner in a haystack
Springtime meals seem to be all about the asparagus. I do love those dishes, but I think the humble pea deserves equal time. One of my favorite pasta dishes allows it to step into the spotlight.
Paglia e fieno, or straw and hay pasta, has its origin in the Siena region in central Italy. It gets its bucolic name from the green (spinach) and yellow (egg) noodles used in the preparation.
Paglia e fieno is traditionally made with tagliatelle. Tagliatelle are ribbon-like noodles usually sold in nests. Folklore says that there is a delicate balance needed to create them. If they are too long, they will frighten the husband; if too short, they might have the appearance of leftovers.
Fortunately, there is no need to make your own. Dellalo puts out dried pasta nests, and Rana puts out a combination package of both green and yellow fresh tagliatelle. If you can’t find tagliatelle, fettuccine is a good substitute.
Paglia e fieno is prepared with a simple cream-based sauce. Peas and mushrooms are added for color and flavor. If you are not a mushroom fan, you can substitute 4 ounces of thinly sliced prosciutto, which can be sauteed with the onions.
Whichever you choose, be sure to spring for authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano. It gives the dish an umami boost befitting a paean to the pea.
Paglia e Fieno
- 4 tablespoons butter, divided
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 11/2 cups thinly sliced mushrooms
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Pepper to taste
- 1 cup fresh or frozen peas (defrosted)
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving
- 6 ounces each of yellow and green tagliatelle
In a small saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons of butter. Add the onion and sauté until golden, about 7 minutes. Add the cornstarch, stirring constantly. Stir in the cream and bring to a simmer, then remove from the heat and set aside.
In a frying pan, melt remaining1 tablespoon of butter, add the mushrooms and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt and a few grindings of pepper. Saute over medium-high until the mushrooms have released their liquid and are lightly browned. Add the peas and heat through. Blend the mushrooms and peas into the cream sauce, and stir in ½ cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Keep warm over low heat.
Cook the tagliatelle according to package directions and drain well. Add the sauce and stir to combine. Serve topped with grated cheese.
— 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. Reach her with questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.