I was inspired to make this dish when I was walking through woods a few weeks ago, in early spring. When I got back to my kitchen, first I took off my muddy shoes, and then I got to work figuring out how to capture the smell of things growing, or getting ready to-- that amazing combo of earthy and fresh, like a garden that’s just been planted. Earthy flavors like sausage, mushrooms, and garlic balance with bright new spring tastes like asparagus, peas, fresh herbs and lemon zest.
It also reminds me of the classic Italian dish, Straw and Hay pasta, where plain spaghetti noodles are mixed with green spinach noodles, like strands of yellow straw and green hay– the golden noodles of Hodgson Mill Ultragrain® Thin Spaghetti with Quinoa and the bright green asparagus spears are close enough for me!
This recipe can be as fancy as you want to make it. If you're lucky enough to have morels, they'll be delicious here. Otherwise, just pick your favorite mushroom. I found this absolutely divine lean “wild boar” pork sausage that I’m in love with, but a plain pork, chicken, or even vegetarian sausage can work just fine. And I couldn’t find fresh peas right when I was craving this dish, so I used frozen. The only thing I think is non-negotiable is the delicious nuttiness of Hodgson Mill Ultragrain® Thin Spaghetti with Quinoa and the fresh spring asparagus.
The first step is to get water boiling for the pasta, and to cook the sausage in a large pan. You’ll use the same pan for everything, so go for your biggest. Since I’m using a lean pork sausage, I found that I had to add a little bit of olive oil after removing them from the pan since they didn’t create enough oil to sauté the amazing amount of veggies that go in the pan next --
It’s a vegetable mountain! In the same pan you cooked the sausage, add all the chopped mushrooms, asparagus, peas, and garlic and cook it until the asparagus is cooked through but still slightly crisp. Slice the sausage and add it back into the pan with a splash of lemon juice, and stir it all together until it’s all warmed through. Hopefully the timing worked out so your noodles are done too!
To keep things simple, I usually assemble each plate at the table. First add a serving of golden spaghetti on the plate, then a scoop of the sausage-veggie mixture, and then a drizzle of olive oil and a generous sprinkling of fresh herb gremolata.
The gremolata is the delicious secret weapon that elevates this dish to entertaining status. It’s a mixture of chopped fresh parsley, mint, basil, lemon zest, and parmesan cheese. Fresh herbs are great for you, creating flavor without adding extra fat or salt (which are also excellent for adding flavor, but also for adding pounds or aggravating blood pressure). You’ll need less cheese on top when you have this flavor-packed mix on your table!
I can’t wait to take another walk in the woods (as long as I can come back to a fresh, easy meal like this one).
Spring Woods Pasta
Fresh Herb Gremolata
- 1/2-3/4 pkg Hodgson Mill Ultragrain® Thin Spaghetti with Quinoa (6-8 oz)
- 4 lean pork sausages or 8 oz. pork sausage meat
- 2-3 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 - 1 1/2 cups asparagus sliced into 2" lengths
- 2 cups mushrooms thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 cup peas fresh or frozen
- 1-2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- olive oil to serve
- salt and pepper to serve
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese grated
- 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves finely chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves finely chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley finely chopped
- 2 Tbsp. lemon zest from 1-2 lemons
Cook pasta according to instructions. When pasta reaches desired tenderness, reserve 1/2 cup pasta water, drain pasta, and cover until the rest of the dish is done. Prepare gremolata by mixing together parmesan cheese, chopped mint, basil, parsley, and lemon zest. In a large pan over medium heat, cook sausage completely. Remove from pan, let cool, and slice. Add more olive oil into pan until there is about 2 Tbsp. total fat and/or oil. Add asparagus, mushrooms, peas, and garlic and cook 3-4 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring. Asparagus should still be slightly crisp. Add sliced sausage, and lemon juice, and cook 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally until everything is warmed through and cooked to your taste. Sprinkle a little reserved pasta cooking water on the noodles if they have begun to stick together to make them easier to serve. Serve immediately. Assemble in serving bowls by combining a serving of spaghetti and a serving of sausage-veggie mixture in each bowl. Drizzle lightly with olive oil, sprinkle with gremolata and season with salt and pepper to taste.
To make this dish vegetarian, omit sausage and increase amount of mushrooms to 3 cups, or feel free to substitute veggie sausage. If you’re using fresh peas, wait to add them when you add the cooked sausage and lemon juice since they need less time to cook.
Makes about 4 servings
Original recipe by Erin
You can find Spring Woods Pasta and other recipes from Hodgson Mill by visiting the Recipes page.