The freshness of asparagus and green peas always speaks of spring to me. Toss in some herbs and pasta, it’s even better.
The dish I’m going to share today comes from MyRecipes.com, complete with my changes. Their recipe for Creamy Spring Pasta was such a gorgeous looking dish I had to give it a try and it helped that it was meat-free. I’ve been trying to serve up at least one dinner a week without meat, so this one fit right into my plans. For those who want meat, this would be great with grilled chicken.
Another great thing about this dish is that it will also make a nice dish for Easter for those still on the hunt of what they plan on serving. Asparagus is always on sale this time of year, so it’s a very affordable dish as well.
I noticed when I looked at the reviews of the recipe, many people complained it was too many steps for them, but trust me this dish is not hard to make and it really is easy and worth every bite of effort you put into it. It did use two pans, one for blanching the veggies and cooking the pasta and another for creating the sauce. Don’t let that scare you off.
Do be careful not to overcook the asparagus and the green peas when blanching them (if you need help with blanching, check out my posting on it). They have to be slightly crunchy still to give the perfect texture to the dish with the noodles and cream sauce. Also soggy, over done asparagus and green peas are just a mushy mess of yuck in the mouth.
Don’t forget the breadcrumb topping to sprinkle of the top. I made it and forgot to add it at first and it really did add a lot of flavor to the dish when I finally remembered it was still sitting on the counter. The topping is crispy and garlicky and added so much more, that I was so sorry I forgot it on my husband’s first helping (yes, he had seconds and I rectified the mistake).
Now for the changes and yes, I made a few. I added about a 1/2 cup of white wine because I had a leftover bottle in the fridge and a crisp white wine goes wonderfully with pasta, spring greens and creamy cheese sauce. I didn’t have any fresh tarragon so I had to had dried. I used more cheese than mentioned (have I ever mentioned that I love cheese?), used shallots and use whole wheat penne pasta. I also used olive oil instead of butter and added red pepper flakes for a little kick.
The dish was wonderfully creamy and yummy with the crisp bites of asparagus and peas. Writing this just makes me want to go make it again! It was also a beautiful dish to look at (although I am afraid some of my pictures did not turn out so well on this one, so you’ll need to make it to see it yourself). Since we eat with all our senses, this is one of those dishes that it’s easy to fall in love with cause it smelled, looked and tasted great, all while being easy to make and being low-fat and healthy.
3/4 cup of Panko breadcrumbs
2 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
3 garlic cloves, minced and divided
1 1/2 cups asparagus, cut into 2″ pieces
1 cup frozen green peas
8 oz. penne pasta
1/3 cup shallots, chopped fine
1 1/2 Tbsp. flour (I used whole wheat pastry but all-purpose is fine)
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/3 cup white wine
1/4 cup veggie stock (or chicken)
3/4 cup skim milk
4 oz. reduced fat cream cheese
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated (or use Parmesan or Romano)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. dried tarragon (or use fresh if you have)
Place large pot of water on to boil. Once boiling add the asparagus and frozen peas to the water for about 3 minutes (or less) until they are crisp-tender. Remove and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain and set aside.
Add the pasta to the water and cook to al dente. Drain and set aside.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add 1 minced garlic clove to the pan and sauté until soft and fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the breadcrumbs and toast until golden brown. Taking care to stir often here to prevent burning and even browning. Remove from the pan, set aside, wipe the pan out and return pan back to burner.
Add the remaining olive oil to the skillet, along with the shallots, red pepper flakes and remaining minced garlic. Sweat down the shallots, about 2 minutes, then add the flour. Cook the flour for about 1 minute to prevent the floury taste in your sauce. Pour in the white wine and cook until the alcohol smell is gone, about 2 to 3 minutes before adding the veggie stock. Add the milk, whisking constantly, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook until thickened. Turn off heat and add the cheeses and salt and pepper to taste. Once the cheese is melted, fold in the pasta, tarragon and veggies, toss well.
Serve up on plates and top with breadcrumbs and a little more grated cheese on top.
Makes 4 servings.