What are the dishes in your regular dinner rotation? I have a list I turn to when I need quick ideas for my weekly meal plan, and one of my favourites is a creamy pasta with scallions and peas. It's a one-pot meal: you make the sauce in the warm pot after draining the pasta. The kids are big fans.
Virtually every night, Polly, who is almost four, says to me, "can I help make dinner?" Sometimes, the answer does have to be no - such as when it's 5:45 and I still haven't started and I'm not even sure we have all the ingredients - but typically, I have the brains and the space to say yes. This week, I was certainly glad I did say yes, since she made this pasta dish nearly singlehandedly.
Scallions and peas are a lovely combination: sharp and sweet, together. Both are inexpensive and easy to keep on hand. I use frozen peas, and I buy a couple bunches of scallions every week - they are also a nice alternative to onion in stir-fries and a good garnish for Thai and Indian dishes. (I also want to make this!). In this dish, you add the peas and chopped scallions to the pasta in the last minute of cooking time, so the sharper scallion flavour is slightly muted, which suits the dish.
Polly knows all about testing pasta to see whether it's done. She prefers pasta quite al dente (and I suspect it's often because she can't wait any longer to eat). I always ask her to help test the noodles when I'm making any pasta dish. Polly's only 3-and-a-half, but she's more than capable of standing on a stool at the stove (I don't leave her side) and stirring a boiling pot. Keeping the pot on the back burner until the pasta has been drained means she's less likely to get a steam burn.
Following this impressive serving of the dinner, Polly carried all the bowls to the table.
(For Star Wars fans, when she says "it's like an At-At," she in fact is confusing At-At with Imperial Probe Droid. Maybe you had to be there.)
I usually round out this dinner with a basic green salad, or cooked veg like roasted broccoli. I've also made do with a plate of raw sliced vegetables for accompaniment, or, in the case of last week, nothing but bowls of the pasta. It stands beautifully on its own.
Pasta with Scallions, Cream and Peas
Adapted from Canal House
1 pound pasta (linguine or spaghetti work well)
salt for pasta water
1 cup chopped scallions (3-4 scallions)
1.5-2 cups peas
1/4 cup butter
2/3 cup cream (35% works best, but I've gotten away with 18% in a pinch)
1 cup grated parmesan
Boil water for pasta. If you have a kitchen scale, I use 1 litre of water and 10 g of salt for every 100 g of pasta. If you don't have a scale, for 1 lb (454 g) of pasta fill a very large pot (see photos) about 3/4 full, and use about 1/4 cup of salt. The water should be quite salty if you taste it.
Cook pasta: after a few minutes, start tasting the noodles. Add the chopped scallions and the peas to the water when the pasta is underdone by a couple of minutes (in other words, slightly too firm). After the scallions and peas have been in for about 2 minutes, taste the pasta again. When you're satisfied with the level of doneness, remove 1 cup of pasta water, then drain the whole lot into a colander.
Put the butter into the pasta pot, then add the cream. Swirl it around for a minute to start melting the butter and warm the cream, then add the noodles, scallions and peas from the colander. Toss together, then add the parmesan and about 1/2 cup of reserved pasta cooking water, to loosen the sauce. The starches in the water will help the cream coat the noodles beautifully, and the salt will help season the finished dish. Add more pasta water as needed to achieve the consistency of sauce you desire.