Appalachian Pasta Primavara

Spring is finally in full swing, with sunny days, cool nights and the warming earth is sending forth shoots, leaves and flowers to be enjoyed by all who long for fresh green vegetables after a winter of potatoes, turnips, squash, and frozen and canned veggies.

This recipe came out of what was in my refrigerator. Much of it came from the farmer’s market, so it is local, but I have to admit that the asparagus was from the grocery store (and California before that) and the peas were frozen, also probably originally from California. We still have a week or so to go for fresh peas and asparagus here. BUT, as soon as I get my hands on them, and maybe some morel mushrooms plucked from our damp Appalachian earth, you can be certain that I will be making this dish again.

It started out as pasta alfredo. Except that as I was digging about in the fridge, I thought to myself, “Alfredo isn’t really that nutritive, and it can be somewhat bland. Let’s add some onions and garlic–ooh, I have fresh local green garlic from the farmer’s market. And ooh–look, I have that asparagus I bought yesterday. Oooh. And the ramps from the farmer’s market–those will certainly add flavor. And frozen baby peas. And oh, look–that fresh goat cheese I picked up at the farmer’s market too. I bet that would be awesome.”

So, out of the fridge and pantry came all of the aforementioned bounty, and within twenty-five minutes, dinner was on the table: pasta with springtime vegetables in a sauce made from local cream, goat cheese and a sprinkle of imported Parmesan.

I think that the only way to improve this dish, other than using locally grown peas and asparagus, would be to add morel mushrooms to it. Zak would disagree with me, but that is because he suffers from funguphobia, which is a very sad thing. Sad for me, anyway, because that means I seldom get to indulge in my funguphilia. Zak, on the other hand, is perfectly happy avoiding mushrooms.

Anyway, here is the recipe, which is simple to put together and makes a great meatless meal in celebration of the fresh springtime foods, especially if you add a spinach and leaf lettuce salad with delightful radishes like we had from the market as well.

Zak calls this dish “Twigs and Berries Pasta,” because of the shapes of the vegetables and the penne I tossed with it, but I prefer my slightly more accurate name.

Appalachian Pasta Primevara

2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup thinly sliced onion
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon minced green or regular fresh garlic
1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper flakes
3/4 pound thin asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1″ lengths
1 cup freshly shelled or frozen peas, thawed
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
4 ounces fresh goat cheese
1 cup thinly sliced ramp leaves


Heat butter over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed skillet until it melts, then add onion. Sprinkle with salt and cook until golden, stirring as needed. Add garlic, Aleppo pepper flakes and asparagus and cook until garlic is golden and fragrant and asparagus is bright green, but only half-tender. Add the peas and the cream, and cook.stirring until the asparagus is tender and the cream reduces slightly.

Add the two cheeses, and stir until the melt, then stir in the ramp leaves, and add cooked pasta to the pan, and toss to combine.

Serve with salad.

(You could add baby spinach leaves to this at the end along with the ramp leaves, or some morels when you cook the onions.)


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  1. hmmm…. how about something like this for that locavore wedding in June? you-a make-a me hungry and i’m already full of a) masoor dal (for breakfast, at 11 am)and b) mattar paneer (for lunch, about 20 minutes later!)and c)the order of hummous I ate after it was prepared for someone wanting baba gannouj, not hummous. No wonder I’m a “woman of substance” 😉

    Comment by Hilarie — April 17, 2008 #

  2. “Zak, on the other hand, is perfectly happy avoiding mushrooms.

    Good man that Zak….


    Comment by Dick — April 17, 2008 #

  3. Hey, I made pasta primavera last night too! Complete with frozen peas and grocery-store asparagus (the Farmer’s Market I go to won’t start until this weekend, and the only one open now is only open while I’m at work, darn it all)! Well, and a carrot from our patio pot garden. But I just sauteed the veges in butter/olive oil with some garlic, a little salt, and a splash of champagne vinegar before mixing it with angel hair. It was good, but not very filling–this looks like it has more staying power.

    Comment by alsafi — April 17, 2008 #

  4. this is CRYING for mushrooms. it is SCREAMING for them.

    alfredo with tons of veggies is one of my favorite ways to eat pasta. i’m jealous of your ramps and green garlic, i bet they’re super yummy with cream sauce.

    Comment by michelle @ TNS — April 18, 2008 #

  5. Isn’t that spelled primAvera?

    Comment by dindi — April 18, 2008 #

  6. This looks great. We don’t have ramp around here, is there a different kind of vegetable that I could substitute? Spinach?

    Comment by brid — April 18, 2008 #

  7. I have all of that – well, I have to swap the heavy cream with creme fraiche. Now, if I can only find the morels… I can taste this in my mind… and I’m really getting hungry!

    Comment by katie — April 19, 2008 #

  8. I just made this with spinach in place of the ramps, and it was outstanding! I found I needed to keep the cream on hand to add to the pan if it got a little dry, which I imagine was in part because I didn’t measure my veggies other than by eyeballing them, and I added a little more cheese than was called for (my goat cheese came in a 5 oz log; I eyeballed the parmesan and probably went a bit over 1/4 cup).

    It was quite a hit with the friend I had over for dinner. 🙂

    Comment by Elusis — April 21, 2008 #

  9. I made this last night. We are fungiphobic as a family, and I couldn’t bring myself to use frozen peas. It was FANTASTIC. I cannot wait for the fresh stuff to start coming in from the garden so that I can have the baby asparagus and the fresh spinach.

    Observation: when my cube neighbor who appreciates food opened the container I made for him this morning, he got a blissed out look on his face. I used whole wheat rotini as it is what I had on hand and it worked really well and was great on day two!

    This one is going in the rotation and is great as a base idea for just adding happy stuff to.

    Comment by Sarah — April 21, 2008 #

  10. Barbara,

    Thanks for the recipe! I used this as the basis for doing fiddlehead fern pasta (basically replacing the asparagus with the ferns). Somewhat ironic, considering that I live in California, an instead of using CA asparagus, I used ferns, Appalacian-style. Tasty, though!

    Recipe changes and pictures up on my blog soon. Thanks again.

    Comment by Fuzzy Chef — April 27, 2008 #

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