Pasta Ortolano is the quintessential spring pasta, using the best of the fresh produce available in early spring. It is inspired by my love of the Italian countryside and the bounty of vegetables available. The dish offers a delightful mixture of textures: velvety wilted spinach, slightly crisp asparagus, and firm spring peas that burst upon the tongue. The flavors are light and distinctly green. This is a very fresh-tasting dish that is easy to eat and makes you feel very healthy after you eat it. Serve with Prosecco, a sparkling white wine from Italy.
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more if necessary
4 ounces spinach, washed and chopped into 3-inch pieces
1 pound very thin asparagus, ends trimmed, cut into 2-inch lengths
1/2 cup shelled spring peas or frozen baby peas
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 pound dried penne rigate pasta, preferably De Cecco brand
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, in one piece for grating
1. In a large saute pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the spinach, asparagus, peas, garlic, and 1 teaspoon salt and saute, stirring constantly, until the spinach is wilted and the asparagus and peas are tend but not mushy, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the wine and cook until it has almost evaporated, about 5 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente (with a little give), 12 to 15 minutes. Drain in a colander.
3. Put half of the vegetable mixture in the pasta pot, then return the pasta to the pot and top with the remaining vegetable mixture. Toss to combine the pasta and vegetables, adding salt to taste if necessary. Add a drizzle of oil if the sauce seems too dry. Grate cheese over the top and serve immediately.