Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Spring Vegetable pasta with Lemon-Saffron butter

Another dish to celebrate spring! It is a simple saute of vegetables, livened with a hit of citrus, and the exotic flavour of saffron.

Saffron derives from the crocus flower, and is worth more than its weight in gold. Don't be put off by its very different scent (said to be like hay). When it is worked into a dish in the right amounts, it is magic. I am loving the wiki on this spice! Check it out for lot of fun chemical information (if that's up your alley).

Saffron was originally cultivated in ancient Greece - like here in Santorini (sigh)

This recipe is inspired by one of my favourites in Fields of Greens, a great vegetarian cookbook. If you can't find saffron, substitutions can include chopped basil, parsley or mint, or just plain butter. The original recipe calls for Orange-Saffron butter (use 1 orange for the recipe), and this is very delicious too (I just don't have oranges!). I think this would make a lovely Easter side dish.

Ps: My camera battery died, so not a lot of visualization here!

Helpful tools: Colander, zester (like a Microplane brand zester)

Spring Vegetable Pasta with Lemon-Saffron Butter
Serves 2-4

4 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 generous pinch of saffron threads, soaked in 1 tablespoon hot water
Salt and pepper
1/2 pound asparagus, woody ends removed, in 2 inch lengths
1/2 pound English peas (shelled, about 3/4 cup), or substitute frozen peas
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 leek, white part only, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup wine or stock
Juice from 2 lemons
Zest of 2 lemons
1/2 pound fresh pasta or dry spaghetti or linguine
Grated parmesan cheese

Set large pot of water to boil on stove (this can be used for both the vegetables and pasta). Cream the butter with the prepared saffron, 1/8 teaspoon salt and a few pinches of pepper. Set aside.

If using fresh peas, boil for 1 minute, scoop from water and rinse with cool water in colander. Boil asparagus for 3 minutes, until tender crisp, and repeat as with peas. Frozen peas can be added to the saute (see below). Keep water boiling for pasta.

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan, and add shallots. Saute over medium heat for about 4 minutes, then add leeks (and frozen peas), saute for another 2 minutes. Add garlic, wine or stock and lemon juice, and saute for another minute.
A fragrant saute of leeks, asparagus and peas, hurray for google search (food.rlove.org)

Meanwhile, cook pasta until just tender. Just before adding pasta, reduce heat on saute pan, and add asparagus (and fresh peas), 1/4 teaspoon salt, and the lemon zest. Drain pasta in colander, shake excess water and add to saute pan. Quickly toss the vegetables and pasta, then add the saffron butter. The butter will combine with the pan juices to make a light sauce. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan.


  1. Great post! I saw the same saffron image on the wiki page for Santorini earlier today!

  2. Look forward to trying this out, it's our kinda thing! Jamie G.