Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"Peasto" - Smashed Pea and Mint Pasta

Recently, a close friend living in London wrote to me:
"Can you post that recipe for the mint/pea and pasta deliciousness?? If you recall we made it in London, drunk on wedding champagne, I cut my finger and you burnt your hand... the recipe that you gave your bestfriend to make for her BF and now she gets sexed on the reg? you know the one..."

With an intro like that, you can't afford NOT to try this. Have your own requests? Feel free to email me at

This works really well for good cooks who are drunk and/or have limited resources (me in London), and bad cooks looking to fake it and perhaps provide a romantic, vegetarian meal (shall remain unnamed). Classic pesto-style preparation simply requires 2 things: an attention to order in which things are added, and tasting as you go along.

I usually serve this with penne, though you could smear it on baguette and toast for crostini or add broth to make it into a soup, or thin it a bit and use it as a sauce for lamb. It is easy, bright, and filling without being heavy like most other pasta sauces.

Serves two:

  • Pasta, such as penne or pappardelle
  • 1 garlic clove 
  • 2 handfuls of mint leaves (or a good bit of that jarred minced mint ubiquitous in the UK)
  • Olive oil
  • 1 small can of Le Seur baby peas (Jamie Oliver likes to use fresh podded peas, but I find that to taste a little starchy and too toothy)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt
  • Handful of grated Pecorino Romano (or Parmesan if it's all you've got)

Note: This works best with a mortar and pestle, but in a pinch, you could mince and mash with a knife. You could also try a food processor, but as they say with pesto in Italy, it tends to murder the mint leaves.

1. Boil pasta as directed. Meanwhile, in a mortar and pestle, mash garlic clove into a pinch of salt. 
2. Add mint and a Tb or so of good olive oil. Mash to make a thick paste similar to pesto. 
3. Drain peas, reserve half*, and add other half to mix. Mash into paste. 
4. When mixture is incorporated, stir in juice of lemon and handful of pecorino. Stir in remaining half of peas, leaving them intact for a more pleasing pasta presentation. Add more olive oil to achieve desired taste and consistency. 

5. Toss with hot, drained pasta, sprinkle with a bit of extra cheese, and serve.

*Alternately, you can mash all of the peas at once, which is better for the non-pasta uses of this sauce. I like the look and texture of penne coated with a bright green pesto-y type sauce, dotted with peas.

Because fresh ingredients like lemon, mint, and pecorino can vary wildly in depth of flavour, taste as you go along and add more to your liking.


flynn said...

Yum! Are the peas something you'd need to go to a specialty grocery to find? Can you substitute frozen in a pinch? Thx.

Denise said...

Flynn, yes, frozen would work, but I would cook them a bit first. Really, just your run of the mil canned peas are what I recommend--they smash the easiest and are slightly sweet without the starchiness of frozen or fresh. Of the canned brands, I like Le Seur best (its the shiny silver label) but the other brands would work too.