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1 pound bite-sized pasta, I used a rustic orecchiette since it takes about the right amount of time to cook
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cups of fresh shelled spring peas
4 ounces of country ham, thinly sliced
Boil 6 quarts of water with 3 tablespoons sea salt (double this if you use a light and flaky salt like kosher salt).
Add the pasta to your boiling water and give it a good stir.
In a very large skillet over medium heat add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the onion, and a few pinches of salt. Sauté until the onion is golden and soft (about 9-10 minutes).
Add the peas to the pot of pasta water. Add the ham and a generous grind of pepper and nutmeg to the skillet and raise the heat a bit. Cook for 2-3 minutes more, just to heat the pieces through.
The pasta should be al dente and the peas bright green right as the ham finishes warming. Drain, reserving a large cup of the cooking water.
Mix the pasta into the skillet and stir well to combine, then start adding the pasta water bit by bit, just until you form a smooth sauce that coats the pasta. You can optionally add a bit of cream as well.
Plate and garnish with chives.
• Flavor Boost:
- Add spices to the pasta cooking water. I find that a teaspoon or two of Bernise or Pierre Poivre works wonders. And then reserve the pasta water as a flavorful starter for a soup. You can cook the discarded pea pods, trimmings from the country ham, and the onion scraps to make a simple stock.
• Veggie substitutions work great also. Try leek whites for the onion. Asparagus tips for the peas. Fava beans. Spinach. Explore!
• When I'm feeling like something richer I like giving this dish the carbonara treatment, mixing in egg and grated Pecorino Sardo.
Food images and recipe © Christian Leue
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