Seasons’ Eatings: Handmade Spring Herb and Tender Greens Pasta
By Marc J. Duquette
Pelham, NH – This week it’s back out to the garden. If you have been following RecipeRelay for some time you know that eating local and organic for me is usually as simple as heading out the back door. In one hand a trowel or garden snips, in the other, a tray or basket to collect the “goods.” In last week’s post, Lauren Wilson prepared a “dreamful breakfast”–a Ramp Bread Pudding & Spinach Sunflower Salad. Lauren’s discussion about ramps was quite informative and led me to grab some last-of-the-season ramps for my own recipe. Given the current state of the garden, abundant with spring herbs and a variety of young and tender greens, I opted to relay those off Lauren’s recipe as well. How could I feature these early season ingredients in a dish that emphasized their young, delightful flavors?
A year or so ago I stumbled upon a wonderful cookbook by English gardener and author Sarah Raven. The name of the cookbook is In Season, the U.S. version of Sarah Raven’s Garden Cookbook which was named Cookery Book of the Year by the Food Writers’ Guild in 2008. The cookbook walks you through the gardening seasons month by month, contains beautiful full color photographs throughout, and wonderful recipes for using “in-season” vegetables, herbs, and fruits from the garden.
The cookbook has been a valuable resource for me throughout the gardening season as I endeavor to bring the garden to the kitchen table. Flipping through the cookbook, I found inspiration for this week’s recipe – handmade pasta.
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So with some minor adaptation to Sarah’s Herb and Wild Greens Pasta* recipe, I present a Handmade Spring Herb and Tender Greens Pasta. This is a simple monochromatic dish (green) that features a fresh infusion of spring. Rather than using wild greens, I am using tender spring greens from the garden–lettuce, Swiss chard, and mustard greens. Additionally, I am adding ramps to give the pasta a subtle onion-garlic overtone. By the time you read this post, the short season for ramps will have passed. You can substitute garlic scapes or garlic chives (or scallions or leeks as Lauren suggested). If they have not appeared yet, garlic scapes should be showing up soon at your farmer’s market or in your CSA basket (mid-June in New England). For the herbs, almost anything: basil, marjoram, lemon balm, parsley, celery leaves, and so on. In my dish I used winter savory, lovage, sweet basil, marjoram and thyme.
I admit, this is my very first attempt at making pasta. I could have cut out some of the work by pulling out the dough hook for the Kitchen Aid mixer, or by whizzing the herbs and greens in the food processor, or by cranking the dough through a pasta machine (I don’t own one). If time is an issue these tools are indispensable, however, in this case it would have taken away from the RecipeRelay experience. I had the time, so why not take the full handmade approach? I even went so far as to attempt mixing the dough directly on the working surface (like a cooking show superstar), placing the wet ingredients into a well at the center of the flour, and working the mixture together from the inside out with my fingers.
How I came about the eggs for this recipe is a good story to share. I hosted a garden tour for a couple from Wilton, New Hampshire on a recent, sunny Saturday afternoon. We roamed about the garden, sampling herbs, sharing organic gardening tips and having a pleasant time. They left with several potted herbs (as does every visitor to my garden) and I was offered a half dozen of their free-range, organic eggs in return for my hospitality. A garden is for enjoying and sharing. So with that, here is my simple dish.
Handmade Spring Herb and Tender Greens Pasta
Prep Time: 30 minutes active, 1 hour inactive.
Cook Time: 12 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher or other coarse salt
- 3-4 packed tablespoons of finely chopped herbs and greens (include ramps, garlic scapes, or garlic chives).
- chop some additional herbs for garnish
- 2 cups flour (I used King Arthur 100% Organic White Whole Wheat Flour)
- 3 eggs
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Extra virgin olive oil or unsalted butter
- Parmesan cheese, grated
- Mash the herbs and greens with the salt in a mortar and pestle or in a food processor until you form a paste.
- On a clean working surface (the kitchen table in my case), place the flour and form a well in the center to accommodate the wet ingredients.
- Briefly whisk the eggs and pour into the flour well along with the herb paste. Using your fingers, blend in the flour into the wet mixture working your way from the inside out until all the flour is incorporated. You should have a moist, slightly sticky ball of dough. If too wet, add a small bit of flour in stages. If dry, work in a small amount of water–one teaspoon at a time.
- Flour your working surface and knead the dough for about ten minutes until the ball achieves a nice silky texture. Kneading the dough takes a bit of muscle–push the ball of dough down and away from you, two or three times with the heel of your hands, turn the dough a quarter turn, push down and away two or three times, quarter turn, push down and away two or three times, etc…
- After kneading, form the dough into a ball, cover with a towel, and leave it to rest for 1 hour.
- Lightly flour your working surface and roll out the dough as thinly as possible in a shape that is, as best you can get, rectangular. From here you can cut the dough in any shape you desire. In my cases I wanted a fettuccine style noodle. To do this, roll the dough using the long edge of the rectangle and slice the resulting “jelly roll” thinly using a very sharp knife. Unswirl each roll to create the fettuccine noodle.
- To cook the pasta, bring a large pot of salted water and the tablespoon of oil to a rolling boil. Place pasta in pot and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cooked but still retaining some chew (cook al dente). Drain.
- To serve, place pasta in a bowl, drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil or unsalted butter, a sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, and garnish with additional fresh herbs.
Well there it is, reasonable success on the first try! I enjoyed the process of making the pasta but do need to roll out the dough thinner next time. The pasta, served with a small, fresh green salad, made for a simple, delightful springtime meal. Roll-up your sleeves and give pasta a chance.
*Recipe used with Sarah Raven’s permission.
Marc J. Duquette is an organic gardener in Pelham, New Hampshire and he occasionally blogs about this at MarcsGarden.com.