One night a few weeks ago, when spring was first sprouting its weary little head, I experienced an intense craving for some of its bounty. It was barely April, but two of spring's most popular produce were already stocked in every supermarket across New York: peas and mint. What I craved specifically was a cheesy, fresh pasta bathed in Parmesan and sprinkled with bright green peas and chopped mint. And that's what I set out to make for dinner.
Convinced that I had plenty of pasta left in my pantry, I headed to the store to get peas and mint, only to return home to find my cupboards severely lacking. The only pasta I had was a few sheets of dry lasagna. But I'm not one to give up on a craving, so I decided to boil the lasagna sheets and cut them into pappardelle-size strips of pasta. Easy! I was even able to use the bit of pea butter left over from the radish and pea butter tartines I had recently made — it melted perfectly into the pasta sauce.
Feeling like MacGyver of the kitchen, I suddenly wanted to turn more seemingly useless foods into a delicious, composed meal. That's when I spotted the days-old stale baguette I had left untouched after buying too many groceries (the story of my life). A lightbulb went off in my head: panzanella salad! Hey, this is like real-life "Chopped"!
I rifled through my fridge to see what else I could put in the panzanella, which typically has tomatoes, basil, red onion, and sometimes cucumber and peppers. What I had was: a few overripe grape tomatoes, parsley, radishes, canned corn, and green grapes. Yup, you best believe I put all those distinctly un-panzanella ingredients into my panzanella, and you know what? It was delicious. And it was the perfect excuse to clean out my fridge.
"Pappardelle" With Peas, Mint, and Parmesan
8 ounces lasagna sheets (about 6-8 sheets)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup shelled fresh or frozen English peas, thawed
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1 small shallot, minced
1/4 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup grated parmesan
14 fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
Bring 3 quarts water to a boil in a pot. Season with salt; add lasagna sheets and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8-10 minutes (just about or a little before al dente). Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.
When the sheets have cooled down enough, cut them into pappardelle-size (about 1 inch wide or a little less) noodles with a pizza cutter or sharp knife.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallot, garlic, and peas; cook for about 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the reserved pasta water and bring to a boil.
Add the pasta to the skillet and cook, stirring often, until the sauce thickens and coats the pasta, about 1 minute. Add butter and parmesan and turn off heat. Stir and toss the pasta until butter and parmesan are well incorporated. The pasta should now be al dente.
Sprinkle in the mint and toss to combine well. Season to taste with salt and fresh pepper.
1 very stale baguette or loaf of Italian bread
1 cup grape tomatoes
- 1 cup corn
1/2 cup green grapes, sliced in half lengthwise
1/2 cup radishes, thinly sliced
1 cup parsley, roughly chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Salt And Pepper
Cut the bread into 1-inch cubes.
Whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper.
In a large bowl, combine bread, grape tomatoes, corn, green grapes, and radishes; toss with the dressing. Cover and set aside for an hour to let the dressing soak into the bread.
Toss with parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper.