Yes, you did read that correctly – macaroni peas. No, I don’t mean macaroni cheese. And no, it’s not just macaroni cheese with a handful of peas thrown in. This is a pasta dish made with a kind of pea puree and it’s bloomin’ gorgeous.
It sounds odd, I know, but it’s a big family favourite in our house so I thought it would be a perfect second entry in my new series of family-friendly meals, following on from last week’s sausage casserole.
It comes from one of my favourite cook books, River Cottage Veg Every Day by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall. As I have mentioned on my blog before, I’m veggie, but the rest of my family aren’t – although as I do most of the cooking, they’re all eat what I make and my children don’t really question it.
This book is great, because it’s so inventive with its recipes, using vegetables, herbs and spices in really creative ways. I have so many vegetarian recipe books that churn out the same old boring veggie classics and I’m bored stiff with them – but this book is so refreshing.
It’s written by a meat-eater who isn’t trying to stop people eating meat, he just thinks people should cut down for health and environmental reasons. He wants to show that meat-free dishes can be just as filling and satisfying as meat ones, and therefore the flavours and combinations in this book are brilliantly inventive because they need to be persuasive. I’ve cooked about a third of the 200 recipes in this book; some are easy, some take a little more effort, but they’ve all been lovely (aside from one cauliflower and chickpea curry that went disastrously wrong).
Macaroni peas was the first thing I cooked from this book about three years ago. It’s also one of my children’s all-time favourite meals. It takes about 10 minutes to make and they always wolf it down. They cheer when I make it! I hope I can tempt you to give it a go… and I hope you like it too.
300g small macaroni or smallish pasts shapes
1 garlic clove, chopped (although I use a garlic crusher)
25g Parmesan, hard goat’s cheese or other well flavoured cheese, coarsely grated (plus extra to serve)
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
Shredded basil or flat-leaf parsley to serve (optional)
1. Put a large pan of water on to boil, so that you are ready to cook the pasta while the sauce is coming together.
2. Put the peas in a pan, cover with water, bring to the boil and simmer until tender – just a couple of minutes for frozen or very tender peas, longer for older fresh peas.
3. When the peas are almost cooked, add the pasta to the pan of boiling water and cook until al dente.
4. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small pan over a low heat and add the garlic. Let it cook gently for a just a couple of minutes, without colouring, them remove from the heat.
5. Drain the peas, reserving the cooking water. Put about half of the peas in a blender (I use a hand-blender) with 6 tablespoons if the cooking water, the butter and garlic, and the grated cheese. Blitz to a smooth, loose puree adding a little more water if needed. Combine with the whole peas and season with salt and pepper to taste.
6. Drain the pasta as soon as it is ready and toss immediately with the hot pea sauce. Serve topped with plenty of ground black pepper and more grated parmesan. Shredded basil or chopped flat-leaf parsley is a good, but by no means essential, finishing touch.
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