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Fresh peas sweeten creamy pasta sauce packed with garlic, lemon

| Saturday, April 18, 2015, 8:27 p.m.
Orecchiette With Peas, Salmon and Ricotta
Diane Rossen Worthington
Orecchiette With Peas, Salmon and Ricotta

Springtime signals the peak season for fresh peas. I love to use them in dishes that show off their unique taste. Pasta is a perfect backdrop that allows the delicate, slightly sweet flavor to shine through.

If you can find fresh peas already shelled, that's the way to go. If they aren't available, you can also use frozen petit pois, one of the few frozen vegetables I like. Your third option is to shell the peas, which takes a bit of time.

This pasta dish was born out of having extra slow-roasted salmon in my fridge. It worked perfectly with the other flavors.

Pasta dishes usually have a sauce to bind the ingredients. I used creamy ricotta cheese as the base for the sauce. Look for a whole-milk ricotta that will give the dish a rich underlying flavor. Don't forget to save some of the pasta cooking water to add to the sauce; it will control the thickness of the sauce without adding calories.

Orecchiette, which means “little ears” in Italian, is just the right shape for this dish. You can also use penne or bow-tie pasta for a similar result.

Don't just make this a spring dish. Try these seasonal variations: mixed red, orange and yellow teardrop tomatoes for summer; peeled and cubed butternut squash for fall; and broccoli and mushrooms for winter. You can omit the salmon if you want a vegetarian dish. You could also substitute chicken for the salmon.

Contact Diane Rossen Worthington at seriouslysimple.com.

Orecchiette With Peas, Salmon and Ricotta

Water, for boiling

Salt

2 cups fresh or frozen shelled peas or 1 12 pound peas in the shell (these will have to be shelled)

1 pound orecchiette

2 tablespoons olive oil

5 cloves garlic, minced

12 teaspoon crushed red pepper, or to taste

1 cup ricotta cheese

Zest of 1 lemon

2 cups cooked salmon, 2-inch pieces

Freshly ground black pepper

Fresh pea shoots, for garnish

In a small pot, bring water and salt to a boil. Add the peas and cook for 2 minutes. Drain the peas immediately and reserve them.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook it until it is al dente.

In a large, deep skillet, heat the olive oil on medium-high heat. Add the peas and saute them for a minute, or until they are slightly softened. Add the garlic and red pepper; cook only a minute, making sure the garlic does not burn. Lower the heat and add the ricotta, lemon zest and salmon pieces, and mix to combine completely. Season with salt and pepper.

When the pasta is cooked, drain it, reserving 1 cup of cooking water. Add the pasta to the ricotta mixture. If it is too dry, add a bit of the pasta cooking water to moisten it. Mix to combine the pasta and sauce and cook for a minute on low heat. Taste for seasoning. Serve the pasta immediately in shallow pasta bowls and garnish it with pea shoots.

Makes 6 servings.

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