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Penne with Herb Butter and Peas

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Merrill's baby Clara has quite the appetite -- and it's all Merrill can do to keep up. Armed with her greenmarket bag, a wooden spoon and a minimal amount of fuss, she steps into the fray.

Today: Pasta with butter -- the greenmarket edition.

Everyone knows that even the pickiest kid will eat pasta with butter. It's on pretty much every children's menu there is. Many argue that it has earned this status because of what it doesn't offer, rather than what it does. Naysayers point to its blandness, its colorlessness, its lack of textural complexity. All fair points. But I'd counter with this: what adult, confronted with a bowl of generously buttered penne or linguine, or even elbow macaroni, wouldn't feel at least a small surge of joy?

I will concede that none of us should be eating pasta and butter every day, multiple times a day -- including our children. But that's not to say there isn't a time and a place, especially when the pasta contains some other elements to help lift it above the realm of the white and one-dimensional.

Recently, due to apparently ideal deck planter conditions, I've been finding myself with a lot of fresh herbs on my hands. As part of a quest to let none go to waste, I started making herb butter. It's quick, it's adaptable, and it lasts just as long as pesto in the fridge or freezer. One of the first things I did with it was cook up a batch of penne (Clara's favorite shape, as she can poke her fingers into the ends of the penne), blanch some peas from the greenmarket, and then swirl it all together in a hot pan with some of the herb butter.

I encourage you to use this recipe as a jumping off point. I used parsley and mint for this dish, but you can use any combination of herbs you like for the butter, and feel free to sub in zucchini or cut up green beans or even caramelized onions for the peas. Technically, you'll still end up with pasta with butter -- but it's really so much more.

Penne with Herb Butter and Peas

Serves 4

For the herb butter:

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh herbs of your choice (I used parsley and mint)
Kosher or sea salt to taste

For the penne:

Kosher salt
3/4 cups freshly shelled English peas
1/2 pound penne rigate
Herb butter

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by James Ransom

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Tags: Herb, Pea, Spring, Summer, Weeknight Cooking, Amanda & Merrill, Kids, Everyday Cooking