Some cooks make the same red-sauce spaghetti all year round, and there’s nothing wrong with that. A beloved tradition shouldn’t be abandoned for the sake of variety, and, in my estimation, perfectly cooked pasta with the right amount of tomato sauce is an uplifting experience.
One example: I remember a garden party a few years ago, where the host had come up with a brilliant, simple menu of a tray of lasagna and a giant bowl of salad — both stellar family recipes. For dessert, we had Klondike bars, straight from the freezer. It was an easygoing affair, and the lasagna delicious.
But there are some types of pasta — improvisational, perhaps — that can be expressions of a season’s beginnings. These are the pastas I prefer just now, which are, for the most part, vegetable focused.
The other day, I came upon fresh peas in the pod and the first few bunches of new garlic shoots. While West Coast cooks have been blessed with these, and many other vegetables, for several weeks already, we on the East Coast are thrilled to finally have these harbingers of spring arrive at the market, especially this year, when winter’s end has seemed more delayed than ever.
With that in mind, I set about to make pasta with peas. Normally, I would have been pleased to serve it with just a pat of butter and a bit of Parmesan, but a few other words came to mind, like pappardelle and pancetta. Then a little bunch of tender mustard greens caught my eye, so off they went into the basket, too.