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, blanch some peas from the greenmarket, and then swirl it all together in a hot pan with some of the herb butter.
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. —Merrill Stubbs
For the herb butter:
stick unsalted butter, softened
finely chopped fresh herbs of your choice (I used chives and mint in mine)
For the herb butter: In a small bowl, mash the butter with the herbs and a couple large pinches of salt.
Mound the butter onto a piece of plastic wrap and gently roll it up like a cigar, forming the butter into a cylinder as best you can. Twist the ends of the plastic to create a more compact and neat cylinder, and fold the ends under. Refrigerate the butter until firm enough to slice. (This will keep for weeks in your fridge or freezer.)
For the penne: Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Dump in the peas and cook them for a couple of minutes, until they're bright green and just tender. Remove them with a slotted spoon and put them into a colander; run some cold water over the peas to stop the cooking.
Bring the water back to a boil and add the penne. Cook until just al dente, following the instructions on the package. Reserve a cup of the cooking water before you drain the cooked pasta.
Working quickly, return the pot to the stove over medium low heat and add 3 tablespoons of the herb butter. Once it starts to melt, add the pasta and peas. Fold it all together gently, coating everything in the herb butter. Add some of the cooking water if the pasta seems dry. Serve immediately, while the peas and herbs are still bright green!