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Linguine with Spring Vegetables and Orange-Saffron Butter

(recipe, Annie Somerville)


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Introduction

We make this celebratory pasta in the spring with fresh peas and tender young asparagus. To keep the butter from breaking, toss it with the pasta right before serving. It will coat the noodles and make a fragrant sauce. The chive blossoms are lovely with this dish; use them sparingly since they can be quite strong.

Ingredients

  1. 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
  2. 1 generous pinch of saffron threads, soaked in 1 tablespoon hot water
  3. Salt and pepper
  4. ½ lb. asparagus, woody ends snapped off
  5. ½ lb. English peas, shelled, about ¾ cup
  6. 1 Tbsp. light olive oil
  7. 2 shallots, sliced
  8. ½ red or yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
  9. ¼ cup dry white wine
  10. Juice of 1 orange, about ⅓ cup
  11. Zest of 1 orange
  12. ½ lb. fresh linguine
  13. A sprinkling of chive blossoms (optional)
  14. Grated Parmesan cheese

Steps

  1. Set a large pot of water on the stove to boil. Cream the butter with the saffron, ⅛ teaspoon salt, and a few pinches of pepper. Set aside.
  2. Slice the asparagus diagonally into 2-inch lengths. When the water boils, add 1 teaspoon salt. Drop the peas into the boiling water and cook until just tender, about 1½ minutes. Scoop them out and rinse under cold water. Drop the asparagus into the boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes, until just tender. Scoop them out and rinse under cold water. Set the peas and asparagus aside. Keep the water boiling.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan and add the shallots, peppers, ¼ teaspoon salt, and a few pinches of pepper. Sauté over medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes, until the peppers are softened. Add the wine and orange juice; continue to cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes, until the liquid is reduced by half.
  4. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in the boiling water until just tender. Just before you drain the pasta, reduce the heat under the sauté pan and add the asparagus, peas, ¼ teaspoon salt, and the orange zest to the peppers and shallots. Drain the linguine in a colander, shake off the excess water, and transfer the pasta to the pan. Quickly toss the vegetables and pasta together, then add the saffron butter. The butter will combine with pan juices to make a light sauce. Sprinkle with the chive blossoms and serve with freshly grated Parmesan.