Though the season’s first harvest of asparagus yielded but a handful, it was enough to finally welcome spring to our table with a glorious green pasta primavera. We make some version of this as the selection of spring vegetables ebbs and flows. At the moment, peas and favas are weeks away, and are from freezer stores, a harbinger of what’s to come. Once they’re here, we’ll bask in their sweetness, adding them to the increasing number of spears of asparagus. Later, we’ll add snap peas and slivers of tender green beans, or thin coins of radishes for color and crunch. If you find them in time, a handful of fiddleheads wouldn’t be out of place.
For this occasion, we made a batch of tiny cavatelli, imagining how the curl of this shell-shaped pasta would catch the brothy sauce. A loose pesto, bright emerald green from a combination of leafy greens, brings it all together, and a finishing dollop of soft cheese, such as ricotta or a mild goat cheese, adds a silky note.
For the pesto, we gathered some fresh chard and spring onions — chives, walking onions, and garlic chives — from the garden, added a few leaves of sorrel for tartness, and processed it all with enough olive oil to form a loose pesto or salsa verde. Once it comes in, we’ll reach for some mint, also ramps when available. The vegetables are cooked with the pasta, thrown in towards the end, then everything is drained and dressed with the pesto. If the consistency of the dish seems stiff, add some reserved pasta cooking water, just enough to relax things. Pick a small-sized pasta, something spoonable like this cavetelli, or ditalini, or also orzo. Alternatively, this is as delicious stirred in some risotto, a pot of simmered beans (dried or green), a bowl of couscous or new potatoes.
There are as many versions of this dish as there are kitchens. Ours is based on Lidia Bastianich’s recipe for The Pope’s Risotto. Some other favorites are:
• Pasta with asparagus, morels, favas or peas… improvise!, The Improvised Life
• Fave + spring pesto, Elizabeth Minchilli in Rome
• Farfalle con piselli e ricotta (pasta with peas and ricotta cheese), Rachel Eats
Local ingredients: Homemade pasta, with whole grain durum flour from Fiddler’s Green Farm; homemade goat cheese, with goat milk from Jesta Farm; asparagus, peas, favas, chard, spring onions, and sorrel from the garden.