THE WASHINGTON POST – It had been so ingrained in me to cook peas minimally, until bright green and just tender, that it felt almost taboo to let them simmer so far past that point when I first tried it.
But I stayed because I knew what was needed to capture the essence of the dishes I enjoyed. This is how I turned peas into a delicious pasta sauce.
SPAGHETTI WITH SMOTHERED PEAS
– Three-quarter teaspoon fine salt, divided, plus more as needed
– Five tablespoons olive oil, divided
– Six ounces large sweet onion, diced
– Two cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
– One pound shelled tender fresh peas or frozen peas
– One cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
– Half teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided, plus more to taste
– 12 ounces spaghetti, preferably whole grain
– Quarter cup freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese
– Quarter cup fresh basil leaves, cut into ribbons
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Season to taste with salt, if desired.
In a large, high-sided skillet over medium-low heat, heat three tablespoons of the oil until shimmering. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and lightly golden but not brown, five to six minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds.
Add the peas, broth, half teaspoon of the salt and quarter teaspoon of the pepper, raise the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally and smashing some of the peas as you stir to thicken the broth, until the peas are very soft, collapsing a bit, and turn a darker shade of green, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the garlic cloves from the skillet and reserve for another use, such as adding to a dressing or spreading on bread. When the peas have been cooking for 15 minutes, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook it for two minutes less than the instructions on the package. Reserve about one cup of the pasta water, then drain the pasta and add it to the skillet with the peas.
Return the heat under the skillet to medium-high and, using tongs, toss the pasta with the peas to combine. Drizzle in the remaining two tablespoons of oil and enough pasta water, a few tablespoons at a time, to loosen the sauce to the desired consistency. Season with the remaining quarter teaspoon of each salt and pepper and cook, tossing, until the pasta is al dente, about two minutes.
Divide among shallow bowls, top each bowl with the cheese and basil, season with the additional salt and/or pepper, if desired, and serve.