bow-ties with peas, basil and shrimp

I've had a rubber-banded bag of Trader Joes peas in the freezer all year.  Every once in awhile, when I'm making my usual pork fat-laden carbonara, I feel guilty enough to throw in a couple, only to cloak them in yolk and cheese.  But spring brings fresh peas, and fresh peas deserve their own show.

On my weekly run to Russo's in Watertown (the only thing Boston's got over New York), I made off with a pound of fresh pea pods. Prepping vegetables is probably not anyone's idea of a good time, but shucking my first batch of peas of the year was a near giddy experience.  It's a good thing my cutting board has grooves in it because I got a little too excited opening them and they were rolling all over the place.

I babysit for a really sweet family, and they brought me back this gorgeous pasta from their recent trip to Rome.  I don't treat myself to non-wheat pasta very often anymore, so I was saving it for a special occasion.  Fresh peas are just such an occasion. 

In my spring produce craze, I also picked up this gorgeous little Meyer lemon.  I don't have a microplane (I'm not really sure why - it's really pretty essential), but I love using this old-school zester to get five perfectly curly ribbons of zest with each stroke.       

I chopped some basil because I love the herbaceous quality it lends shrimp, a protein I always find pretty bland.  I also diced half a shallot, because I read somewhere that shallots are the secret to making things taste better, or something ludicrous like that.  Since then, I buy a handful of them every week and throw them into everything.  They really are pretty good.

As beautiful as the pasta was in the package, it was even more strikingly vibrant in the rolling water.

I sauteed the shallot, added the peas on medium-high heat until they got little brown blistered bits.  Added the basil, which was even more fragrant than normal (I smelled it in the hallway outside my apartment later that night).  Some $3 white wine from TJs to scrape up the caramelized bits on the bottom, and then the shrimp until they just started to tighten up and turn pink.  Last minute addition of cream because it makes for a pretty picture.

Pasta was added last minute to the lovely mix and all tossed together for a brief second before plating.

Absolutely delicious and so pretty it distracts you from that plate. (Love you, Claire.)

bow-ties with peas, basil and shrimp
Serves 4 in most realities, serves 2 in mine
1/2 badass bow-tie pasta, or any bow-tie pasta will do, I guess
1 pound fresh peas, shucked 
1/2 a shallot, diced
zest of 1 meyer lemon (or a normal lemon if you don't have a meyer handy)
5-7 leaves of basil
1/4 pound of peeled, deveined shrimp (or, do what I do, which is go up to the fish counter and ask for exact numbers of shrimp.   In fact, I do this at all counters where they weight things by weight.  "3 slices of prosciutto please."  Ignore the looks.)
1/2 cup of half-and-half or heavy cream
Splash of white wine

Always start any pasta dish by getting a pot of water on boil.  Heat some olive oil in a skillet until hot, then throw in your diced shallot.  Let it sizzle for a minute or two, stirring constantly (you don't want them to brown too much).  Drop in your peas...they'll make a lovely clattering sound when they hit the pan.  Sautee them for about 5 minutes until soft and blistered a bit (if you're unsure, taste one - that's my motto).  

Salt the water and throw in your pasta, mixing to keep it from sinking to the bottom and sinking.  

At this point, your pan of peas should have lovely caramel-colored spots on the bottom from the sugars in the shallot and peas.  Add a splash of white wine and scrape, scrape, scrape up that brown goodness with your wooden spoon until the bottom of your pan is clean. Stir in the zest.  

Add the shrimp and toss.  Shrimp only need about 2-3 minutes to cook.  Wait until the shrimp start to turn that familiar pink color and add the cream.  Scrape any remaining bits and reduce heat to low.

At this point, your pasta should be done.  Scoop it out directly into the pan and toss.  Salt and pepper, of course, and eat.