Fettuccine with Snap Pea and Mint Pesto
June 15, 2023
At our last Seattle apartment, I had a lovely container garden along the perimeter of our sunny, but narrow patio. Mixed among the pots of ornamental flowers I planted a selection of favorite culinary herbs. Being able to snip some sprigs to use in the kitchen always felt like a luxury. At the time, I could have only dreamed of having an edible garden as big as we have now. In fact, of all the things we love about our Waitsburg home, the amount of space we have for growing a variety of fruits, vegetables, and herbs is at the top of that list. Each month of the growing season is marked by the anticipated selection of backyard bounty ready for harvesting. This week, we had the first wave of tender snap peas ready to pluck off the vine which inspired this bright recipe. Balancing the sweetness of the snap peas with tender herbs, this vibrant pesto makes a fitting meal to celebrate the transition from late spring into summer.
4 cups snap peas, trimmed
⅓ cup walnuts
2 garlic cloves
¾ cup parmesan, coarsely grated
¼ to ½ cup fresh mint leaves, loosely packed
½ cup parsley, loosely packed
2 fresh sage leaves
Zest and juice of one lemon
¾ to 1 cup olive oil
Pinch crushed red pepper flake
1 pound fettuccine
2 tablespoons butter
1 carrot, finely grated
Whole milk ricotta
Trim snap peas and if needed, pull off the strings, but leave pods whole. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Drop snap peas in and blanch for 45 seconds. Drain and immediately drop into a bowl of ice water to stop cooking. When cool, drain from ice water and lay snap peas over a clean kitchen towel to dry.
Place the walnuts and garlic in the bowl of a food processor, then process in pulses until combined into a coarse crumble. Add the parmesan, and process until evenly distributed. Next, add the snap peas and continue to pulse until chopped coarse. Use a rubber spatula to push sides down between pulses. To this mixture add the mint, parsley, sage, zest, and lemon juice with a pinch of salt. With processor running, being to slowly pour in the olive oil. Half-way through, push sides down with spatula to make sure herbs are chopping evenly. At this point, taste the pesto and adjust to taste. Add more cheese, herbs, or walnuts to get the flavor ratio perfect. Add crushed pepper flakes and taste for seasoning, adding more salt as needed. Pesto should have an even texture and be perfectly emulsified in the olive oil. Add more olive oil as needed. Set pesto aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook fettucine to al dente, following package instructions. Before draining the pasta, use a heat proof measuring cup to reserve one cup of the cooking water. Drain pasta and then return to pot with the butter and set over medium heat. Add pesto to pot with a splash of the pasta cooking water and stir rapidly to heat sauce while coating the pasta. If sauce is too thick, add more pasta water a splash at a time, while stirring. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt or crushed pepper as needed. Serve immediately in shallow pasta bowls, or plates. Top each serving with dallops of the ricotta, a pinch of the grated carrot, more grated parmesan and chopped parsley.
This pesto is a beautiful way to celebrate the sweet flavor of fresh snap peas. You could also use snow peas or other tender fresh pea varieties from the garden. If you have them, this could be made with fresh fava beans, remembering to peel both the shell and second skin from them.
Instead of walnuts you could try using pistachios or pine nuts. Pecorino would be a lovely substitution for the parmesan.