Ahhh, spring has arrived! Of course we passed the official day seven weeks ago, but it doesn’t truly feel like spring until lilacs perfume the air and tender, pencil thin asparagus bundles appear in the market. Now the lilacs are blissfully bursting and the asparagus, though available year round, is at its best right this very minute. So good you can eat it raw! Here it’s quickly blanched with the pasta during the last minutes of cooking time, then tossed with fresh herbs, lemony goat cheese and toasted pine nuts. The best part about this dish is that it’s weeknight fast but company worthy.
Pappardelle Primavera with Goat Cheese and Pine Nuts
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup finely chopped shallots
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
zest of 2 lemons
1 pound dried pappardelle pasta
3/4 pound thin asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup frozen petite peas, thawed
5 to 6 ounces creamy goat cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley leaves
1/2 cup finely chopped basil leaves
1/4 cup finely chopped chives
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Place pine nuts in a large, dry, straight-sided skillet over medium heat and toast, stirring often, until fragrant and golden, about 3-5 minutes. Spoon toasted pine nuts into a small bowl and set aside. Wipe out pan with paper toweling.
Add olive oil and shallots to pan and sauté over medium heat until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low, stir in red pepper flakes and lemon zest and sauté one minute more. Remove pan from heat.
Bring a large, well-salted pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package instructions, adding asparagus to the pot during the last two to three minutes of cooking (amount of time depending on thickness of stalks) and then peas during the final minute of cooking. Reserve 2 1/2 cups pasta water, then drain pasta and vegetables.
Pour drained pasta and vegetables into skillet with the shallot mixture. Add goat cheese, parsley, basil, chives, salt, pepper and 1 cup of the reserved pasta water. Toss until goat cheese has melted, noodles are evenly coated, and shallot mixture is thoroughly combined, adding more pasta water to thin sauce as needed. Test for seasoning, adding more salt, pepper or crushed red pepper flakes if desired. Pour pasta into a serving bowl or divide among shallow bowls and top with toasted pine nuts.