Yesterday was the first day of spring, and it’s now…let me check my phone…26 degrees Fahrenheit here in Boston. We’ve all been craving the sunshine, the green grass, the blossoms, and the spring harvest. Winter brings us squash and citrus, but gosh do I miss those colorful farmers markets, those bright, fresh flavors. I needed a boost after being plunged into the cold for months, so I went to the grocery store and found fresh mint. One whiff of this beautiful herb brings images of summer to my mind’s eye.
Right before I traveled to England in 2011 to study abroad in Oxford, I watched Jamie at Home every day. Jamie Oliver is one of my favorite chefs of all time for several reasons. He has a knack for pairing flavors together in the most beautifully simple way. The one flavor trio that stood out most was his use of lemon, mint, and chili. Look to his courgette salad recipe for an example of this. Mint and citrus are made for each other, and that extra kick at the end from the chili adds an unexpected warmth. Amazing.
This past weekend my boyfriend and I ate dinner at The Haven, a Scottish pub in Jamaica Plain, MA. One of their signature sides is minty mushed peas. Oh my heavens. Chopped mint made those creamy peas the most refreshing mashed vegetable in the world.
So, with these inspirations in mind, I wanted to create a dish that put lemon, mint, peas, and chili together. Behold:
Egg Noodles with Ricotta, Lemon, Mint, and Peas
- 1 pound egg noodles (I recommend Pennsylvania Dutch Extra Wide)
- 1/2 cup whole milk ricotta cheese (about 1/4 cup per person)
- 3/4 cup frozen peas
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
- 9 mint leaves, chopped
- a pinch to 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (you can use fresh red chili if you wish)
- salt and pepper to taste
1. Put the frozen peas in a pan. Take a garlic press and crush one clove of garlic, adding that garlic to the pan.
2. Add olive oil to the pan and turn the heat up to medium. Season the peas with salt and pepper to your taste. Let the peas sizzle in the pan until fully thawed. Turn off the heat and set aside.
3. Fill a large pot with water and heat until boiling.
4. As the pasta water heats up, wash the mint leaves and either chop them with a sharp knife or rip them into pieces with your fingers for less bruising. Add these mint leaves to a bowl along with the lemon zest and lemon juice. If you do not have a mortar and pestle (I don’t!), take the back of a spoon and press or “muddle” the mint and lemon against the side of the bowl. This allows the juices in the mint to come out and mix more readily with the lemon juice.
5. Add the ricotta cheese to the mint and lemon and mix until fully incorporated. Add the cayenne pepper (or fresh red chili) and salt; mix until combined. Set aside.
6. When the water begins to boil, add the egg noodles and cook until al dente.
7. Add drained pasta back into the pot and mix with the sauteed peas and garlic.
8. Spoon the pasta into bowls and top with the lemon mint ricotta cheese mixture. Mix it all together.
And there you have it! A pasta dish so creamy yet so refreshing. Spring is here—celebrate with good food. Happy cooking!