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One-pan pasta an homage to early spring vegetables

Recipe: Asparagus, fresh peas and mint combine with lemon, spinach

Pasta with green vegetables on a blue plate
Looks like spring, doesn't it? The pasta, veggies and the light, lemony sauce all
cook together in one pan. (Photos: Kathy Morrison)

The peas, lemon and mint all were grown in my backyard.

Happy first day of spring! I sought out a recipe for today that would embody the freshness and the beautiful green of the season. I had asparagus at hand, plus my first harvest of tender peas and lots of fresh mint.

This is one of those trick recipes, where everything cooks in the same pan, and it works quite well. I found it on , but the original author is Anna Jones from her book “The Modern Cook’s Year.” I’ve adapted the serving amount; it can be easily doubled. Be sure to choose a pasta that cooks in 8 minutes or less; I used thin spaghetti.

The recipe goes quickly, so prep as much as you can before starting to cook. Use a large lidded frying pan, sauté pan or wok that the pasta can fit in flat. (In my case, I broke the thin spaghetti in half before cooking.)

pasta in pan
Start with the dry pasta in the pan.
One-pan asparagus, lemon and pea pasta

Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as a side

Ingredients :

Large handful clean spinach, baby spinach or sorrel leaves

Zest and juice of 1 lemon, separated


8 ounces dry pasta, such as thin spaghetti or angel hair

1/2 pound thick or thin asparagus, woody ends snapped off

1/2 cup peas in pod, sliced crosswise in half (if pods are fresh and tender) or 1/2 cup shelled or frozen (defrosted) peas

1 clove garlic, peeled and sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt

Handful of fresh mint leaves (chopped or whole leaves, as desired)

Freshly ground black pepper

Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving


In the microwave or a tea kettle, heat 3 cups water to boiling.

Pan with red tongs
Use tongs to flip the pasta over to make sure it's evenly cooked.

In a small bowl, "scrunch" the spinach or sorrel between your hands with a pinch of salt and a bit of lemon juice. Set aside. Cut the top 2 inches from the asparagus stalks, set aside, and slice the remainder of the stalks into 1/4-inch rounds.

Place the dry pasta in the frying pan. Add the garlic, lemon zest, oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the pot. Pour in 2-1/2 cups of the hot water, put the lid on the pan and bring to a boil. Remove the lid and simmer on high for 4 minutes, turning the pasta in the boiling water with tongs every 30 seconds or so. After 4 minutes, stir in the asparagus rounds and the pea pods or peas, and continue turning the pasta for 4 more minutes.

Stir in the reserved asparagus tips, the spinach or sorrel and the mint leaves, then the lemon juice. Simmer for 2 more minutes.

Most of the water should be evaporated by this point. Check one piece of pasta -- it should be al dente, not crunchy or mushy. If still too crunchy, add some of the remaining boiled water and simmer another minute or two.

Pasta and veggies
The pasta is nearly done here. A minute off the heat will help
it absorb the last of the water.
Once the pasta is at the al dente stage, remove the pan from the heat and allow the pasta to absorb the remaining water, forming a lemony sauce.

Serve immediately, topped as desired with a grind or two of black pepper and some grated Parmesan.


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A recipe for preparing delicious meals from the bounty of the garden.

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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Nov. 27

Before the rain comes later in the week, take advantage of sunny, calm days:

* This may be your last chance this season for the first application of copper fungicide spray to peach and nectarine trees. Leaf curl, which shows up in the spring, is caused by a fungus that winters as spores on the limbs and around the tree in fallen leaves. Sprays are most effective now, but they need a few days of dry weather after application to really “stick.” If you haven’t yet, spray now.

* Rake and compost leaves, but dispose of any diseased plant material. For example, if peach and nectarine trees showed signs of leaf curl this year, clean up under trees and dispose of those leaves instead of composting.

* Make sure storm drains are clear of any debris.

* Give your azaleas, gardenias and camellias a boost with chelated iron.

* Trim chrysanthemums to 6 to 8 inches above the ground after they’re done blooming. Keep potted mums in their containers until next spring. Then, they can be planted in the ground, if desired, or repotted.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while dormant.

* Plant bulbs for spring bloom. Don’t forget the tulips chilling in the refrigerator. Other suggestions: daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths, anemones and scillas.

* Seed wildflowers including California poppies.

* Also from seed, plant sweet pea, sweet alyssum, bachelor buttons and other spring flowers.

* Plant most trees and shrubs. This gives them plenty of time for root development before spring growth. They also benefit from winter rains.

* Set out cool-weather annuals such as pansies and snapdragons.

* Lettuce, cabbage, broccoli and cool-season greens can be planted now.

* Plant garlic and onions.

* If you decide to use a living Christmas tree this year, keep it outside in a sunny location until Christmas week. This reduces stress on the young tree.

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