The sweet summer peas have begun to arrive in gardens and markets everywhere. If you haven’t already, go get yourself a bag and start shelling…
Shelling peas is the ultimate early summer meal prep, preferably done with a grandma on a back porch, somewhere near a sleeping dog and a cold glass of lemonade. No matter where I shell my peas these days, I always get transported back to my childhood when shelling peas was a huge undertaking shared by myself and various members of our family. I would beg to get out of picking them from the garden in the morning, but I always took part in the shelling. When I was younger, I probably ate more peas than I shelled but as I got older, I found a strange pride in having a strong iron will that kept the sampling to a minimum. Believe it or not, this iron will was applied to any kind of picking, but was especially difficult during berry season. I guess I just realized that the ingredient that I was preparing/picking would eventually become part of something greater.
In the case of fresh peas, ‘something greater’ would most always be creamed peas and there would have to be enough to feed at least ten people including all the men coming in from a long day of farming. That first feed of peas was something everyone looked forward to and I distinctly remember how pleased they all were when I placed the bowl of creamed peas on the table. It was the first bowl to be passed around (clockwise direction only please!) and the first bowl to be emptied. Even though the planting, weeding, and harvesting was through my grandma’s hard work, the shelling glory was partly mine and eight year old me had earned the right to be proud to serve those peas. Funny, I was just thinking I don’t know how to make creamed peas like grandma used to. I’ll have to get the recipe from her very soon, if there is a recipe!
Today I don’t have a garden large enough to grow enough peas to feed my family so if we’re going to have a ‘pea feed’ I have to buy a large bag at the farmer’s market. It doesn’t take very long to shell them for my small bunch and our preferred pea dish is a fresh pea pesto on pasta. I like to use orecchiette because it holds the pesto quite well and if you’re lucky, you’ll find a pea stuck inside the pasta shell too.
Summer Pea Pesto Orecchiette
- 3 cups freshly shelled peas
- 1/3 cup walnuts or pine nuts; lightly toasted
- 1/3 cup Parmesan Reggiano
- 1 1/2 cups fresh basil
- salt and pepper
- olive oil
- 3 tbsp cream
- tender pea shoots for garnish
- 1 package orecciette pasta cooked according to package directions
MethodWhile the pasta is cooking; add 2 cups of the peas (reserve 1 cup), nuts, cheese, basil, salt and pepper to a food processor or blender. Blend together, then drizzle in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil while still blending. Transfer to a small pot, add the rest of the peas and gently heat for about 5 minutes. Add some cream to thin it out a bit. Drain pasta, reserving 1/4 cup of the liquid. Add peas and pesto to the pot of pasta and gently toss to combine. Garnish with pea shoots and slivers of Parmesan Reggiano.