Well, the original title was going to be “Paschal Pasta” because I served it on Easter Sunday a few weeks ago.
The idea of adding fresh peas, broadbeans (fava beans) and asparagus to my version of Pasta Alfredo (see link below) came to me as I sweated over the menu. There were going to be ten of us for lunch including my in-laws who always expect some kind of pasta course at lunch, especially a festive version for a festive occasion. There were absolutely loads of nibbles and appetizers and starters which were a meal in itself but I knew the drill – no meal would have been complete without the ‘primo’, the pasta course. As I pondered how intricately busy our lives have become, a situation I now describe as the “Gulliver Syndrome” (we are all tied down by a barrage of minutiae on a daily basis), I realized that I had to come up with something super simple. And Pasta Alfredo Frascati Style came to the rescue.
INGREDIENTS – Outlined in Bold below, after the photos
I got my greengrocer to shell the peas and broadbeans for me – phew. Asparagus are easy enough to deal with. I snipped the end bits of the asparagus spears, and sliced the rest of them into rounds. I cooked the vegetables in separate batches, because they all have different cooking times. I thought I was being practical using the same cooking water, and that it would impart a je ne sais quoi to it to when the pasta was going to be added. And so it was. The only suprise was the colour of the cooking water once I did add the broadbeans – it went a weird dark pinky-red colour. Fortunately it did not ruin the end result. But next time I will cook the broadbeans separately altogether.
I knew that leftovers were going to be hotly fought over the following day so I decided to cook more pasta than was effectively necessary for lunch. So that came to 1 kg of pasta (600g would have been sensible). Also, I opted for egg noodles because they take much less time to cook. I bought two tubs of mascarpone, 500g each. I ended up using about 750g in the end. Italian sausages: 6 altogether, skinned. Some olive oil. Lots of freshly grated and equal parts of grated parmesan and pecorino, fresh mint, and salt and pepper of course.
Add plenty of water to the pasta pot, add salt (10g of salt per 1 liter of water), and cook the three vegetables in separate batches.
Skin the sausages and start cooking them, mashing them all the while so that it looks liked minced meat. Add very little olive oil to the saucepan to cook the meat which will release its own fat naturally.
If you don’t own a wooden fork like that in the photo, use the tip of a whisk to break up the sausage meat. I discovered this trick via my colleage, chef Luigi Brunamonti (we both collaborate at the Antico Casale Minardi).
You are looking at a large saucepan and the equivalent of six sausages. It does not take very long for them to cook. Do NOT overcook, otherwise the texture will be ruined.
Now add the mascarpone which will be very thick at first. It needs to be loosened up. The heat will help.
Now add all the previously cooked veggies.
I am not sure, but I think I detect some rosemary? Who knows. I can’t remember. But it wouldn’t hurt is all I can say.
Meanwhile the fettuccine (egg noodles) have cooked – see what I mean about the weird colour that the broadbeans added to the cooking water? Drain the fettuccine straight into the saucepan. Add the parmesan to the sauce as well as some cooking water – so that you end up with a very creamy consistency.
It doesn’t look very creamy here and that’s because I had to get on with the business of finishing it off and there was no obliging soul in the kitchen to take a photo for me. All you need to know is that I kept adding cooking water a little at a time until I reached what I wanted.
Remember this? This is grated pecorino and fresh mint leaves. I plated up the pasta and finished each plate off with some pecorino and the mint.
Again – no obliging soul to take any photo once we sat down to eat this pasta. So I took some photos myself, the next day.
I had run out of fresh mint so you are just going to have to use your imagination.
I expect that vegetarians could enjoy a similar version just by cutting out the sausage meat. In that case, I would add some garlic to the procedure early on.
My mother pronounced this the best pasta she had eaten in her life, bless her. And indeed it was most Eastery and satisfactory … and … as you have seen … relatively easy peasy to make ! I hope I have convinced you?