English peas are one of my favorite spring / summer ingredients. This is another way to enjoy them beside the English peas puree and chilled English peas soup.
serves: 8 difficulty: difficult prep time: 2 hrs
For the pasta
- 3 cups pasta flour – mix 50/50 all purpose flour and semolina flour, or 50/50 Italian “00” flour and semolina flour
- more semolina flour for dusting
- 4 eggs
- 1 tbs olive oil
- 1/2 lbs fresh spinach
For the sauce
- 3 cups shelled English peas
- 1/2 lbs fresh mozzarella
- 1 preserved lemon (if you have it) or the zest of one lemon
- 20 mint leaves
- 2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock (if you want to keep the dish vegetarian)
First make the pasta dough. Heat a deep frying pan, and place the spinach in it without adding any oil. Stir until the spinach is completely wilted, and then remove from the heat.
Place the wilted spinach in a strainer, and squeeze it firmly to remove as much water from it as possible.
Keep doing that to squeeze out as much excess water as possible. Set aside for a few min, and then squeeze it again for a few minutes. You will be amazed how much water is still in the wilted spinach. Set aside again for a few minutes, and repeat.
Once the wilted spinach is dry, chop it roughly. Place it in a blender or food processor with the eggs and puree until smooth.
For the rest of the pasta making process, you can watch the videos in the squid ink pasta post. But here is a summary:
Pour the flour on a flat surface, and create a “well” in the middle of it.
Pour the egg-spinach mixture in the middle. Using a fork, start mixing in some flower from the sides of the well while being careful not to breach the sides and let the runny egg mixture spill. You need to be careful only while the egg-spinach mixture in the middle is runny. Once it thickens into a paste, you can use a spatula to mix in more flower. Set aside about 1 cup of flour on the side (because you never know how much flour exactly will be needed to form the dough). Shape the dough, and keep adding flour. Since the spinach will retain some water despite your valiant effort to squeeze it out, the dough may feel wetter than you are used to. So you may need to add more flour.
Once you have shaped the dough, start kneading. Fold the dough in two, turn it 90 degrees, apply pressure with the palm of your hand down and away from you… Repeat: fold in two, turn 90 degrees, apply pressure….
Because we are using semolina flour which is coarser, it will take more kneading to get there. In this case, I kneaded the dough for 25 min. Once it is smooth, wrap it in plastic wrap and let it rest for at least 30 min or better – a full hour.
Once the dough has rested, time to roll it out. First split the dough in 3 parts; work with 1/3 and keep the remaining 2/3 wrapped in plastic wrap.
I use a very simple Italian pasta maker with a detachable electric motor.
Flatten the first 1/3 of the dough between your hands so that it starts forming a pancake – about 1/2 inch thick. Adjust the pasta machine rollers on the widest gauge (on mine that’s 0), and turn on the pasta machine (if electric). Run the dough pancake through it 2-3 times. At that point you will have an elliptical sheet of dough. Fold the narrow ends of the ellipse so that the width of the pasta sheet is only slightly less than the width of the pasta machine. Run the sheet through the machine couple more times. The goal is for the pasta sheet to be as wide as the width of the machine. Once you have achieved that, start tightening the gauge of the rollers (on my machine the numbers go up) and run the sheet through the past machine couple of times at each gauge.
You may have to dust the pasta sheet lightly with flour. I go all the way to gauge 5 for cut pasta. Dust lightly with flour, then cut the sheet in 1 ft long pieces. It’s all right if the ends of the sheet aren’t perfect 🙂
Before you cut the pasta, you want to dry the sheets for about 20 min. I made a make-shift rack for drying the pasta sheets – i.e. I use our dish drying rack propped between two chairs.
Once the sheets dry for 20 min they will feel like leather.
Next cut the pasta. Attach the cutting attachment to the machine. You have options how wide to cut the pasta. You can also cut it by hand by rolling each sheet into a roll, and slicing the roll as wide as you want the pasta to be.
Dust the ready pasta lightly with flower, and put on a lightly dusted sheet tray. Repeat with the remaining 2/3 of dough.
You can freeze the cut pasta for months.
To make the sauce, place the English peas in a stock pot, and add the stock. Bring to a simmer, and simmer for about 20 until the peas are soft enough to eat. Remove from the heat and let cool.
Place half the English peas in a blender, along with the mint leaves and 1/2 cup of the stock used for simmering them.
Puree the peas and mint. Season with salt and black pepper. The resulting puree may be a bit too thick so you may add some more stock to make it feel more like a pasta sauce.
Take the sauce out of the blender, and mix with the remaining half of the English peas. Mince the preserved lemon or lemon zest and add to the sauce.
Adjust the sauce seasoning.
To cook the pasta, bring a stock pot of water to aggressive boil. Add a 2-3 tbs salt. Add the pasta and cook for 2-3 min. Note that fresh pasta cooks really quickly.
Tear the mozzarella in 1/2 inch chunks.
Once the past is ready, mix it with the English peas sauce and plate. Garnish each plate with 2-3 chunks of mozzarella and some mint leaves.
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