Springtime in a Pasta Bowl

When you run out of idea for a simple weeknight dinner, does pasta usually come to mind? While spaghetti and meat sauce might be a go-to meal during most of the year, a lighter variation that utilizes some of the delicate spring produce available right now is a great seasonal alternative. A spring version of pasta primavera, the recipe below combines a trio of vegetables—peas, leeks and asparagus—with the complementary flavors of garlic, lemon and smoked trout. It’s an all-in-one meal that has protein, starch and vegetable categories covered. 

 

Smoked Trout Pasta

Bring Out the Springtime Sweetness

In this dish, smoked trout takes the place of any other type of smoked or cured meat, providing bites of smoky, salty flavor without overwhelming the other ingredients. Think of it as the fish equivalent of bacon: a little goes a long way. It also acts as a foil to the vegetables, bringing the natural sweetness of all three items out to the forefront.  

For the base of the dish, whole-wheat spaghetti is used to provide a more filling and healthier alternative to regular spaghetti. While there’s no mistaking one type of pasta for the other, the distinct nuttiness of whole-wheat spaghetti pairs especially well with vegetables. Because it is less processed (all parts of the wheat kernel are left intact), whole-grain spaghetti also contains more fiber, protein and vitamins than its white pasta counterpart. Some may find the texture of whole-grain pasta to be slightly chewier and coarser than regular pasta, but the products on the market today are a vast improvement from what was available in the past. Just be sure not to overcook it: otherwise, your pasta will become not only soft, but gummy and likely to fall apart.

 

Spaghetti

 

How do you know if your spaghetti is truly whole-wheat? Look at the label: it should state “100% whole wheat” or “100% whole grain.” Leave behind packages that list “wheat flour” rather than “whole wheat flour” in the ingredients.

The technique used in this recipe is straightforward, requiring a few steps and some multitasking, but nothing difficult. First, the leeks are sautéed until tender and sweet. Next, the peas are blanched in the pasta cooking water and fished out before the pasta is added. While the pasta boils, the asparagus and peas are sautéed until tender-crisp, and finished with some lemon zest and garlic. After draining the pasta and reserving some of the pasta cooking water for the sauce, everything—including the smoked trout—is tossed into the pasta pot until it comes together nicely. The only step left is breaking out the pasta bowls and watching everything disappear!

Whole-Wheat Spaghetti with Smoked Trout, Peas and Asparagus

Packaged smoked trout can be found in the refrigerated case of most well stocked supermarkets next to the smoked salmon. In a pinch, canned smoked trout can be used instead, but the texture will be softer.  

Ingredients

Asparagus

4 Tbs. olive oil

2 large leeks, halved lengthwise, white and light green parts sliced thinly (about 4 cups)

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup fresh or thawed frozen peas

12 oz. whole-wheat spaghetti

1 bunch asparagus, trimmed, cut on the bias into 1-inch pieces

Zest of 1 lemon

1 tsp. minced garlic

1 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 cup flaked smoked trout

Cooking Instructions

Leek

1. Warm 2 Tbs. of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the leek, 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper, cover and cook until tender, 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a bowl.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the peas and blanch 3 minutes; remove with a sieve or slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl. Return the water to a boil, add the spaghetti and cook according to package instructions.

3. Meanwhile, add the remaining 2 Tbs. oil to the skillet and increase the heat to medium-high. Add the asparagus and blanched peas and season with 1/2 tsp. salt. Cook until the asparagus is almost crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Add the lemon zest and garlic and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in the leeks.

4. Drain the spaghetti in a colander, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Return the spaghetti to the pot, add the reserved pasta water, leek mixture, lemon juice and trout, season with additional salt and pepper and toss to combine. Serve immediately.

Serves 4.

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