Spring is coming. Maybe not to Chicago, but somewhere close. Costco once again has their delicious shelled English peas that are sweet and gorgeous and absolutely delicious. I’ve been eating them almost nonstop, including just by the handful after having blanched them.
But then I decided I needed something new. And I was also on my tortellini kick, and it really does taste better with a little sauce on it. I’d finished up the marinara that I’d made. And I was out of basil to make more of my cheating pesto.
Then I realized that I could do something fun with my peas. Peas and pasta always go so well together. Probably in a cream sauce. And that’s a fast sauce, surprisingly. At least the way I make it. And super easy since it’s barely more than a base mother sauce.
Translation: few ingredients and it’s the base sauce that you can use to turn into all sorts of things from macaroni and cheese to a Bearnaise sauce by adding just a little bit of something else. There are four (five now, technically) mother sauces that are the base for most sauces that you eat today.
So I decided to have some fun, and wow did it turn out well. It’s possible to say that I may have made this more than once again since then.
Apologies in advance for the not so great pictures. My DSLR was out of batteries and I ended up using my old camera. Wow is there a difference!
Spring Pea Cream Sauce
1 T butter
1 t flour*
2 cloves garlic
1 1/2 c milk
1/2 c Parmesan
1 c shelled peas, blanched
salt and pepper to taste
* For a true bechamel (cream based mother sauce), you’d want to do equal amounts of butter and flour to make the roux to thicken the sauce. Because I don’t want this cream sauce very thick but still want the richness that butter gives it, I decreased the amount of flour I’d usually use.)
(And ummm did I actually measure anything? Nope. All going by taste and estimation. That’s the fun of cooking – you make it your own, and it all works out. This is pretty close to what I did, though.)
You’ll want to blanch your peas first – unless you’re using frozen peas that are already cooked. Heat water to boiling and salt it liberally (3 to 4 cups of water and a tablespoon of salt). Add your shelled peas, and boil for a brief moment – no more than 60-90 seconds. Use a slotted spoon or a spider to remove the peas and place them into a bowl of ice water – and I mean a bowl of water with lots of ice in it. You want them to stop cooking immediately so they stay a beautiful bright green color and don’t get mushy and gross.
For your sauce, use a nonstick pan, and add the butter. Once the butter is melted (at medium heat), add the flour and stir well. You want it to sort of boil, which will cook out the raw taste of the flour. Add the garlic after a minute or so, and saute for just another minute, stirring periodically.
Add the milk slowly, whisking constantly as you do so to ensure that you don’t end up with any unsightly lumps. Turn the heat down to medium low, as you don’t want to truly boil the milk and burn it or worse. Instead, you want it to thicken gently over the next three to four minutes.
Add your cheese, again doing it in batches so that you don’t get a mass of lumpy cheese in the midst of your beautiful sauce. Once it’s incorporated and smooth, add a bit more and so on. Add a pinch of salt and some pepper, adjusting to get it to the taste you want. I barely add any salt because the cheese is salty enough already, but I do like a little kick of pepper!
Finally, add the peas and stir to combine. The sauce may start to get a little thick at this point, but it’s ok. This is why we save our pasta water. Never ever dump out your pasta water before you’ve coated your pasta with sauce. Instead, add a half cup or so to your sauce and pasta and toss it together until the sauce is the consistency you prefer – thicker or thinner, but yummy no matter what.
Serve it immediately. Cream sauces aren’t ones you want to let cool off before serving. If you have extra, you can absolutely save it and rethin and heat it with the pasta water trick again the next time you’re eating pasta.