Alfredo Pasta with Sweet Peas
When I was a kid, I was unwaveringly certain that fettuccine Alfredo was the most glamorous dish on earth and if that didn't give it away, yes, I grew up in the 1980s. Alfredo was on every menu before the low-fat craze eradicated its lushness, as eighties as walnut oil, raspberry vinegar, and me having a very unfortunate set of bangs.
Obviously, given the chance to talk about pasta for a few pages, I had to drag it back here for its renewal (but hopefully not its farewell tour). However, there are a couple things that make this dish especially difficult to construct as an adult, both pertaining to things I didn't know then that I am not sure I am glad I know now. The first is that the thick, creamy Alfredo sauce is as authentically Italian as, well, pizza seasoning blends. The second is that it's much harder as an adult with nagging concerns about arteries and double chins to mindlessly delight in an unapologetic puddle of butter, cream, cheese, and refined flours the way I did as a kid.
But I think if you're going to do something, you should do it right, and if I wanted to find some crystalline sliver of my childhood in a rich bowl of pasta, I was going to have to do it properly - that is, immoderately. And I almost pulled it off, but the week I was tinkering with this recipe, I managed to run the little Italian store down the street out of the tiny pasta shells I like best for this dish, leaving only the dreaded wholemeal ones behind. Then, the market by my apartment had fresh shelling peas, and once they landed in the dish, and nested themselves in those little shells, I was too charmed to consider making it without them again. My inner thirteen-year old might understandably be appalled that I 'grown-upped' this with icky fresh vegetables and whole grains, but my outer adult thinks that the sweet, crunchy peas offset the richness perfectly, the heartier pasta is an excellent stage for all the sauce, and that, quite often, pasta dishes (and tastes in bangs, thank goodness) are improved with age.
|salt to taste|
|225g||dried small pasta shells, regular, wholemeal, or, if you're a poor planner, a mix|
|450g||fresh shelled peas|
|freshly ground black pepper|
|1 tsp||finely grated fresh lemon zest|
|120g||finely grated Parmesan cheese|
|2 tbsp||chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley|
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta, and cook accord ing to package instructions. Add peas to cook during the last 30 seconds of pasta cooking time. Reserve 120ml pasta cooking water, and set aside. Drain the pasta and the peas together.
Dry out the pasta pot, and pour in the cream. Bring the cream to a simmer, and cook it until slightly reduced, about 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the butter, and stir it until it has melted. Generously season the sauce with freshly ground black pepper; add a pinch of salt as well as the lemon zest. Add 90g of the Parmesan, and stir it until the sauce is smooth; then toss in the drained pasta and peas. Cook the pasta in sauce for 2 minutes, until the sauce has slightly thickened. Add the reserved pasta water by the spoonful if needed to loosen the sauce.
Divide the pasta among bowls. Garnish with remaining Parmesan and the flat-leaf parsley.