Dinner tonight: Summertime pasta with sugar snap peas

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Sugar snap peas are the unsung heroes of the vegetable family. They’re sweet and crunchy. They’re just as good raw as they are cooked. You can dip them, toss them in a salad or stir-fry them. They can do anything a baby carrot can do, with just a little more panache and sophistication.

And there’s no better time to enjoy them than now, as they are in season locally and can be found on almost every farmers market table.

Lots of people confuse the sugar snap pea with its cousin, the snow pea. It’s easy to do, as the snow pea is similar in size and shape, only they are much flatter and, in my opinion, have a less interesting texture and flavor.

When shopping for snap peas, look for ones that are bright green and smooth. They should be plump, but you should not be able to see the outline of the peas inside the pod. That could indicate that the pea was too mature when picked and could be less sweet.

Snap peas usually have strings running down one side of the pod. While the strings are unpleasant to eat, they’re easy to remove. Just snap off the stem end of the pea toward the top seam, leaving the stringy part attached. Then gently pull down on the disconnected stem end to remove the string. If you’d prefer to skip this step, look for a “stringless” variety. They’re often sold that way in grocery stores, but if you’re at a farmers market, just ask which type you’re buying.

Sugar snap peas, in all their glory, are featured prominently in this week’s recipe, Creamy Goat Cheese, Snap Pea and Pine Nut Pasta.

Easy and incredibly quick to make (done in less than 30 minutes), this pasta is perfect for a busy weekday, but special enough for company.

The key to this pasta is in cooking the vegetables and herbs as lightly as possible, allowing them to retain their fresh flavor and crunchy texture. A splash of lemon is added to the creamy sauce, giving it just the right amount of brightness, and a generous amount of basil and mint are added right at the end.

The dish is showered with pine nuts before being served, at my house, with a glass of crisp white wine. The result is a memorable summer meal, showcasing one of summer’s best vegetables.

 

Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at meredithdeeds@gmail.com. Follow her on Instagram ­at @meredithdeeds.

 

Creamy Goat Cheese, Snap Pea and Pine Nut Pasta

Serves 4

Crunchy snap peas and a generous amount of basil and mint give this creamy, summer pasta loads of fresh flavor. From Meredith Deeds.

• 12 oz. uncooked penne

• 8 oz. snap peas, stems and strings removed, cut in half crosswise (about 2 c.)

• 1 tbsp. olive oil

• 1 large shallot, finely chopped

• 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

• 1/4 tsp. salt

• Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

• 1/2 c. heavy cream

• 4 oz. creamy goat cheese, softened

• 1 tsp. lemon zest

• 1 tbsp. lemon juice

• 1 c. halved cherry tomatoes

• 2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil

• 2 tbsp. chopped fresh mint

• 3 tbsp. toasted pine nuts

Directions

Cook the pasta according to package directions. One minute before the pasta is done, add the snap peas to the same pot, bring to a boil again, stirring, and continue to cook until both the pasta is al dente and peas are still crisp. Do not overcook. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid.

While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large skillet, add the shallot, garlic, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the cream and cook for another 2 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Stir in the goat cheese, 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta water, lemon zest and lemon juice. Add the pasta, snap peas and tomatoes, adding more pasta water if mixture seems dry. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute, or until hot. Remove from heat and add the basil and mint; toss well. Divide among serving bowls, garnish with pine nuts and serve immediately.

Nutrition information per serving:

Calories 645 Carbohydrates 82 g

Protein 23 g Fat 25 g

Saturated fat 11 g Cholesterol 46 mg Sodium 640 mg Added sugars 0 mg

Dietary fiber 7 g

Exchanges per serving: 1 vegetable, 5 starch, 1 high-fat protein, 2½ fat.

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