Shells with pea shoots and cream

You simply won't go wrong with reduced cream

In the early season, when trips to the farmers market yield just a few bits of local produce, the pressure’s on. As a cook, you’ve got only one or two chances to enjoy the fruits of the land before it’s back to the winter slog of canned whatever, dairy, starch and meat. So you’d better make that green stuff – the season’s first herbs, a bunch of radishes – shine.

Yesterday’s first trip to the Midtown Farmers Market produced a haul consisting of exactly one small box of pea shoots, courtesy Growing Lots Urban Farm. The delicate sprouts don’t exactly lend themselves to front-and-center, main-course prominence. When more abundant, pea shoots are great in stir-frys, a fresh pea soup, or in a salad, but I worried those options would have blunted the shoots’ flavor or required use of too many additional, non-local vegetables, stealing attention from the shoots.

I settled – eventually – on this pasta with cream, ham and mushrooms – ingredients that would provide rich background flavors that would allow the bright green pea shoots  to garner the attention they deserved and drive the tastes of the dish. Plus, with pasta from North Dakota, cream from New Prague, mushrooms from Wisconsin and prosciutto (americano) from Iowa, it felt true to the farmers market eat-local ethos, even if it’s too early for the market to really support it.

With ingredients like these, who needs

Shells with pea shoots and cream


  • 1# shells or other pasta
  • Olive oil
  • 6 oz crimini mushrooms, sliced 1/4″ thick
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup cream
  • 2 oz prosciutto, sliced thin
  • 1 cup pea shoots
  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and cook until well browned. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Pour in cream.
  3. When the cream has reduced significantly and is quite thick, stir in the prosciutto and the pea shoots, reserving a few raw pea shoots to garnish the bowls. Stir until the shoots wilt, just a few seconds.
  4. Toss cream mixture with cooked pasta until evenly distributed. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, topping each bowl with a small bunch of raw pea shoots.

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