Minestra Di Pasta E Piselli
On Sunday afternoon I finally made it to the farmers' market for the first time this year. My nearby farmers' market (in Union Square) runs on Saturdays, and I haven't been around on a Saturday since it opened at the beginning of the month, so when I realized I had a little bit of free time on Sunday afternoon, I took the opportunity to swing by the Charles Square Farmers Market (located in Harvard Square just outside the Charles Hotel).
The first thing I noticed when I got there is that the Charles Square Farmers Market has grown! I spotted the Siena Farms/Sofra stand first and then noticed a Formaggio stand and a vendor selling ice wine in addition to the usual vendors like Kimball Fruit Farm and Busa Farm.
I made a beeline for Sofra and could not refrain from purchasing a bag of chocolate chip cookies. Sofra has amazingly chewy and gooey chocolate chip cookies. With that first order of business taken care of, I wandered around checking out the offerings from Siena Farms and decided to pick up a bag of shelling peas.
I had no idea what I wanted to do with the peas, so when I got home, I flipped through some cookbooks seeking inspiration. Eventually I opened up Domenica Marchetti's The Glorious Pasta of Italy. I had recently received a review copy of this book and was eager to start cooking from it.
The Glorious Pasta of Italy is published by Chronicle Books, which happens to be one of my favorite cookbook publishers. I love the layout, and the pictures are absolutely gorgeous. Many of the pictures even have a script font running across them with descriptions in Italian. The recipes are divided into chapters like pasta in soup, baked pasta dishes, pasta on the run, and showstoppers. Marchetti introduces each chapter, noting what she's included and why and what her inspiration for certain recipes is. Some of the recipes require fresh pasta, which Marchetti explains how to make in great detail, and others can be made with dried pasta.
I looked through the book for recipes that would incorporate my fresh peas, and two caught my eye. One was for shells with artichokes, peas, and prosciutto, and the other was for a light minestrone with peas and pancetta. It was a tough decision, but the soup sounded more simple and required that I pick up fewer ingredients. It definitely sounded like the right thing to make on a lazy Sunday evening.
Minestra Di Pasta E Piselli (adapted from The Glorious Pasta of Italy)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 ounces pancetta, cut into small dice
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
Freshly ground black pepper
6 to 7 cups chicken broth
1 small piece rind from Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 3/4 cups conchigliette (small shells) (Use 1 1/2 cups pasta for thinner soup.)
1 cup fresh peas
Kosher salt (optional)
Warm butter and olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Once butter is melted, add onion and pancetta. Stir and cook for 5 minutes.
Sprinkle in the thyme and some pepper, and continue to cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Pour in 6 cups of the broth, toss in the Parmigiano rind, and raise heat to medium-high.
Bring the broth to a boil, and then stir in the pasta and peas. Cook until pasta is al dente (follow times listed on the box). Add more broth if soup is thicker than you'd like.
Remove soup from heat, and stir in 1/2 cup of the Parmigiano. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Ladle soup into bowls, and top with remaining cheese.
Note: The soup will thicken as it sits, so add more broth as necessary. It's also supposed to be served immediately, but I packed up three servings to take for lunch this week, adding extra broth to each container. It was still tasty, but this is definitely one of those soups that is best the day it's made -- when the peas are still fresh and the pancetta still a bit crisp and brown.
This soup immediately earned a spot among my favorites. It's subtly salty, full of flavor from the broth and Parmigiano, and dotted with sweet, fresh peas. I refilled my bowl three times the night I made it. It was the perfect thing to showcase my farmers' market find.
What was your latest farmers' market find?