Orrechietti with Prosciutto, Asparagus, Peas and Mint

Pasta Peas Prosciutto

It was a good day at the farmer’s market today. Spring is in full force in Northern California.  Baskets of arugula, mesclun, mustard greens and kale flowers vied for attention between tables teetering with asparagus, artichokes, fava beans and sugar peas.  I discovered elephant garlic scapes, nibbled on Venezuelan artisan chocolate, sampled extra-virgin olive oil and a sublime balsamic vinegar.  The sun was strong in the sky after a week of rain.  It was only 8:30 in the morning.

In usual fashion, my money ran out before my eyes and tastebuds tired.  Each time I go to the market I promise myself I will walk through the stalls first – just to look, taste samples, take pictures, and restrain myself from heavy purchases.  Once through I will double back to stock up, saving the heaviest items for last: citrus, potatoes and tubers, bottles of oil, kilos of meat.

In a perfect world.

This time, I made it through two thirds of the market before I had to turn back, my shopping bags bulging, my arms aching from dangling plastic sacks, handbag and camera, everything dusted in a coat of flour from ficelles balancing in the crook of my elbow.  A woman passed me pulling a smart trolley layered with wicker baskets filled with her market harvest, gracefully maneuvering through the crowds, stopping and chatting, tasting, selecting.  I made a mental note to find one of those for myself.

This recipe is inspired by today’s acquisitions and the TasteFood recipe archives:

Orrechietti with Prosciutto, Asparagus, Peas and Mint
Serves 4

6 ounces (170 g.) prosciutto
1 pound (500 g.) asparagus, ends trimmed, cut on the diagonal in 1″ pieces

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup (125 ml.) chicken stock
1 1/2 cups (375 ml.) heavy cream
1 cup shelled English peas
1 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
Freshly ground black pepper

Additional grated Pecorino Romano for garnish

Preheat oven to 325 F./170 C.  Arrange prosciutto slices on baking sheet.  Bake in oven 15 minutes.  Turn off oven and leave prosciutto in for additional 15 minutes.  Remove.  Break prosciutto into 1/2″ pieces.  Set aside.

Steam asparagus pieces until tender but still firm.  Remove from heat and rinse under cold water; set aside.

In a large saucepan cook pasta in salted boiling water until al dente.  Drain and return to pot.
While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in skillet.  Add garlic and cook until aromatic but not brown, about 1 minute.  Add stock and cream.  Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer and cook until reduced by a third.  Add peas and cook one minute.  Add asparagus, half the prosciutto, and freshly ground black pepper, stirring to combine.  Add cream sauce to the orrechietti. Stir in 1 cup Pecorino Romano and 1/4 cup mint. Serve immediately. Garnish with additional grated Pecorino Romano cheese, mint leaves and remaining prosciutto.