Vegan Penne Pasta with Fresh Peas, Smoked Paprika, Walnuts and Cream

Yield: 4 servings

This flavorful and pretty pasta dish was inspired by the popular Italian favorite made with peas, ham or prosciutto and cream.  I simply cleaned it up and veganized it, substituting smoked paprika for the pork and unsweetened soymilk for the cream.  I added walnuts for additional flavor, texture and nutrition and a little lemon zest to brighten, lighten and freshen the dish even further.  I hope you love it.

Note: I created the recipe and photographed it in May when “May peas” were in our farmer’s market.  But then I got consumed by other obligations and never posted.  I really hope you can still find fresh peas in your area.

Approximately 1/2 cups fresh peas (I used May peas from the farmer’s market)

Sea salt to taste

8 ounces whole wheat penne pasta (11-12 minutes)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup thinly sliced spring onions (a ratio of about 3:1 white to green parts)

2 medium cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon all-purpose flour

1/2 unsweetened soymilk + extra if desired

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast

Freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup walnut pieces

Zest of 1 medium lemon

Place peas in a 2 quart saucepan, cover with water, add a pinch of salt, and place over medium high heat, loosely covered.  Simmer for 20 minutes or until tender, adding more water if too much evaporates.  Meanwhile, heat a pot of generously salted water to boiling.  Add pasta, stir, loosely cover, and simmer for 11-12 minutes or until pasta is al dente.  Reduce heat if necessary.  (I confess, that I NEVER use as large of a pot or as much water as recommended.  It seems unnecessary and wasteful, as long as the pasta has room to agitate.) 

While peas and pasta cook, heat olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onion and sauté, stirring frequently for a couple of minutes.  Reduce the heat if necessary to prevent from cooking too fast.  Add garlic and sauté, stirring constantly, for another minute.  Then stir in peas.  Sprinkle with flour, stir to incorporate, and then stir in soymilk until it reduces down.  Drain the pasta, reserving about  1 and 1/2 cups.  Stir in the pasta and then add the pasta water a little at a time to loosen the sauce to the desired consistency.   (Leftover reheating note:  this pasta seems to absorb a lot of the moisture when refrigerated, so save some of the pasta water to add to your leftovers when reheating.  Plain water can’t as successfully be added, as it lacks the starch from the pasta that helps thicken the sauce to the desired texture.)  Sprinkle in the smoked paprika, nutritional yeast and a pinch of black pepper.  Stir until incorporated.  Fold in walnut pieces and lemon zest.  Check for seasoning and adjust as desired.  Serve immediately.  (Reduce the heat at any time that the mixture appears to be cooking too fast.)

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