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Spring Pasta

When the Covid crisis began, I started doing 'loving kindness' meditations, where you give compassion to yourself and to others through a series of repeated mantras. I am not a meditation master, and I've struggled to maintain a practice over the years, but the loving kindness meditation has settled on me during this time. We are all connected. If nothing else, this pandemic has taught us that.

May you be safe. May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you live with ease.

Daily movement, breathwork or meditation, and cooking continue to be my preferred therapy during this time.

I've made a few different versions of this springy pasta over the past few weeks. It was first inspired by the Pasta all Gricia with Slivered Sugar Snap Peas from the Six Seasons cookbook, but it quickly evolved into its own dish. I've made it with shaved asparagus and spiralized zucchini, and I love how the vegetables mimic the shape of the pasta, so you can twirl everything around your fork. Those vegetables also cook quickly, in just the last 30 seconds of the pasta cooking. If you want to make the dish vegetarian, just leave out the pancetta. And if you don't eat dairy, just leave out the pecorino and maybe up the amount of olive oil and garlic. That would be delicious, too.

This pasta is quick enough for a mid-week meal, but special enough for an occasion. If you want to put in a little extra effort, try making your own pasta. It's actually quite easy and deeply satisfying. Since I'm gluten-free, I've been using the recipe from Cannelle et Vanille, but you can find regular pasta recipes easily online, including You Tube videos.

I recently made this pasta for my mom's birthday, and she loved it. I hope you do, too.

Hang in there everyone! Big hugs.

Spring Pasta

Serves 4

  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 2 small zucchini
  • 3 ounces pancetta (you can use bacon, if you can't find pancetta)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced
  • pinch of Aleppo-style pepper or red pepper flakes
  • 8 - 12 ounces pasta
  • 1 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped pistachios

Trim the tough bottoms of the asparagus. Then, using a vegetable peeler, peel the asparagus lengthwise into long ribbons.

Use a spiralizer to create long spirals of zucchini. If you don't have a spiralizer, you can use the vegetable peeler to make zucchini ribbons, just like you did the asparagus.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a healthy amount of salt, until the water tastes like the sea.

Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the pancetta and cook slowly, rendering the fat and allowing the pancetta to crisp. Remove most of the fat from the pan, leaving about a tablespoon.

Add a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to the pan with the garlic and the Aleppo pepper. Lower the heat to low and let the garlic slowly poach in the olive oil while you finish the pasta. If the garlic starts to brown at all, turn off the heat.

When the water is boiling, add the pasta to the water. Cook according to the package directions. When you have about 30 seconds left until the pasta is done, add the shaved asparagus and zucchini.

Scoop out about 1/2 cup of pasta water and reserve. Increase the heat under the skillet to medium.

When the pasta is done (taste to make sure it's just cooked through), drain the pasta and vegetables and then add them to the skillet with the pancetta. Add the Pecorino Romano, the lemon zest, chopped parsley and a good amount of freshly ground black pepper. Toss well to incorporate the pasta and vegetables into the pancetta, adding a little pasta water to make a creamy sauce. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper, if needed. Another big drizzle of olive oil doesn't hurt either.

Serve in warmed bowls topped with additional Pecorino Romano and the chopped pistachios.

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