Cooking Off The Cuff: Accompanying Summer Ravioli With Late Peas And Early Leeks

07/11/2017 11:22pm ET | Updated July 12, 2017

Last week, I made a batch of agnolotti/ravioli containing a very simple summer filling of nice, dry ricotta: blanched and mashed peas; and fresh mint. Salt, no pepper. It is a filling worth trying as pea season comes to an end. (It would be very good with fava/broad beans too, but that would be quite a bit more work because of the indispensable extra step of peeling the blanched beans.)

The question arose of how to dress these ravioli (which I won’t describe in detail, because their ingredients tell the whole story: for the filling combine ricotta, peas, mint and salt). The first thought was a standard one: Butter and mint, maybe with some parmesan at the table. But there was a lot of mint in the filling, and more would have been too much. It is no secret that one of the first pea dishes Jackie and I eat each summer is peas à la française, one of whose defining ingredients is little springtime onions. So, for us, peas find a good friend in any member of the onion family. Leeks, for instance: new-season leeks had just begun to appear at the market, and I had some in the house.

And echoing the peas in the ravioli with peas in their dressing seemed to be a fine idea: there would be a textural contrast with the crushed peas in the pasta filling; they would taste good; and they would look gorgeous with the pale green-white of the leeks and the yellow of the pasta.

Early in the day I shelled enough peas (the smaller and younger the better) to yield a generous half cup (around 120 ml by volume). If these had been older and bigger, I’d have blanched them for a minute or two in boiling water, then chilled them in cold water and set them aside.

A half hour before guests arrived, I cut the white part (just extending into the light green) of five thin, well-washed leeks into 1/4 to 3/8-inch (6 to 10-mm) rounds; these were short, and the white part measured only 3 to 4 inches (7.5 to 10 cm) in length, so adjust quantities accordingly. Cut thicker ones on the smaller side for the sake of even cooking. In a pan large enough to eventually hold the 28 ravioli (they were small, and seven to a portion was a nice first course), I melted about a tablespoon and a half (20 g) butter and added the leeks still damp from rinsing, along with salt. Over low heat and with the pan partially covered, I cooked them until they were just tender, adding dribbles of water as needed, then set them aside.

When the ravioli went into their boiling water, I reheated the leeks and added the peas, which were tender in about 90 seconds, then turned off the heat and waited for the ravioli. When they were done, I relit the fire under the leek-pea mixture and drained and added the ravioli. I splashed in a little of the pasta-cooking water to generate a glossy butter finish, adjusted the salt, and that was that. No cheese was needed.

It was a perfect companion to the pea-based ravioli, but you could serve it with any small-format egg pasta, such as farfalle – or indeed with spaetzle. Very delicate, very elegant, very summery. And delicious.

Edward Schneider

Peas and the summer’s first leeks with ricotta-pea-mint agnolotti/ravioli

Edward Schneider

Use only the white and palest green parts of (preferably) small leeks

Edward Schneider

In butter and a little water, the sliced leeks take next to no time to cook

Edward Schneider

And, once added, the peas cook in even less time

Edward Schneider

Ravioli going into the pan

Edward Schneider

The finished dish