Peas can sometimes be forgettable. I never wake up on Saturdays in late June or early July and think “I’m going to buy peas today!” as I plan my weekly trip to the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket. Though they’re a welcome a surprise and treat to be greeted by when I arrive.
For most people, including myself, peas come from the freezer. Sometimes I’m lucky enough to find locally frozen peas in the freezer doors of the Park Slope Food Coop during the depths of winter, but either way, they’re frozen. It’s probably one of the very few vegetables, that even in our season-less grocery stories with winter squash and asparagus sitting right next to each other, is rare to find out of season, fresh, sitting on the shelves. For that reason, peas are forgettable. I never plan meals around them as they make their way so infrequently into my diet. But when peas do grace the tables at the New York City Greenmarkets, for those few short weeks, it really is a treat.
One of my favorite standbys recipes with peas is a quick sauté made with ground lamb. A dish my husband has also mastered and makes periodically during his once a week dinner duty (which ends up being more like once a month…). But the other night I was in the mood for pasta. Deciding to use the rest of my frozen gnocchi I made a few weeks back, a carbonara seemed a bit out-of-place. Carbonara is made with a sauce of mostly wine and raw egg that then cooks as you toss it with the pasta. Unfortunately, gnocchi isn’t quite as stable to be tossed around in a sauce but rather works better as a poor over. A beautiful bowl of gnocchi swimming in a beautiful, almost soup like sauce with plenty of crusty bread to soak up the excess.
While carbonara technically is not supposed to have cream, I’ve had many versions that add it in. A carbonara sauce with cream, minus the egg was exactly what I had in mind. The trick is to let the flavors simmer long enough to add depth. The wine completely burns off in the process but it’s flavor comes through strongly. For this dish I used a dry Riesling, a wine I rarely cook with but was quite impressed with its performance. Other good substitutions would be a dry sauvignon blanc or maybe a sharp pinot blanc.
Pasta with Fresh Peas & White Wine Cream Sauce (Serves 4)
- 1lb Gnocchi
- 8oz pancetta, chopped
- 1 shallot, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 3/4 c wine
- Pinch each of sea salt and crushed red pepper
- 1 c fresh peas
- 1 c cream
- Freshly grated parmesan for garnishing (optional)
Cook gnocchi according to package’s instructions. In small Dutch oven sauté pancetta until crispy. Remove pancetta with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Add garlic and shallots to Dutch oven and sauté over medium-high heat until begins to soften, about 3 minutes. Add wine, scraping brown bits from the pan, and continue cooking over medium heat until wine reduces by half, about 7-8 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt and red pepper flakes.
Stir in peas and cook until they turn bright green, about 3-4 minutes. Add cream and continue cooking until sauce comes to a low boil. Remove from heat and season with additional salt and pepper as desired.
To serve, divide cooked gnocchi among 4 bowls. Spoon over sauce and top with fresh grated parmesan, if desired. Serve immediately with crusty bread.