Creamy Penne Pasta with Asparagus and Peas

Creamy Penne Pasta with Asparagus and Peas

The first time I heard the question, I remember feeling instantly uncomfortable with it. Scarlett was barely over 2 years old and we’d just had a fun swim play date with her friend. As we were getting the kids out of their wet bathing suits, my friend turned to her daughter and asked, “Is Scarlett your best friend?” I can so clearly recall wondering why she would ask such a silly question. How is this 2 year old suppose to understand the meaning of what a best friend is and, honestly, why even put that label on a friend who will likely, in the next second, steal her toy, refuse to return it and feel no remorse at all for the trauma she caused? Asking the question just seemed crazy. Instead I’m sure it was less of a question and more of a response to her feelings about our afternoon. After all, the girls had played together sweetly as we worked out then we’d had a nice swim and were about to enjoy lunch on a sunny patio. It was one of those rare instances, in the early days of motherhood, when you still think you have control over your life so you plan something and, miraculously, it works out exactly the way you envisioned it. So, in my opinion, her question was more about her sheer happiness in the moment and less about running out and getting our toddlers matching necklaces.

As Scarlett got older I always shied away from using the moniker of “best friend” with any of her little pals. Not that she didn’t have a lot of lovely friends that we saw often. In fact, many of her friend’s moms were becoming (and still are) very important people in my own life. But I never felt comfortable putting the tag on any of the girls. Kids are constantly growing and changing on their journey to understanding who they are as individuals and what they need and want. As a result, they are unpredictable little people so, in my opinion, they can’t possibly be best friend material yet. My god, one day Scarlett loved Caillou more than life itself and then the next she dropped him like the annoying little bastard that he is. How could she possibly provide the consistency required by a best friend? I remember thinking how silly Scarlett would feel if I coached her into thinking certain friends were her “best friends” and then suddenly that friendship were to go on the skids. After all, girls can nicely giggle together appearing like twins separated at birth and then dissolve into two bosspants who fight over everything. It’s happened a million times with Scarlett and some of her really great friends. Friends she’s known since she was a teeny baby. Suddenly these seemingly sweet buddies couldn’t get along no matter how ideal the situation. But I never made a fuss about it. I always told her friendships do that. They have their ups and downs and when you’re in a down it’s important to give each other some space. It doesn’t mean you’re no longer friends; it just means everyone needs a break to rediscover what you love about being friends. I can imagine how much harder those moments would have been for Scarlett if the friend had been labeled her “bestie.” (Don’t even get me started on when mom’s hashtag #besties in their social media posts!)

When I was the editor in chief of FASHION18, a magazine for teens, 70% of the letters I received were from girls who were struggling with friendship troubles. (The other 30% were about boys but that’s a column for a much later date.) And, like any woman, I knew all too painfully well how upsetting girlfriend troubles could be, especially for a teenager. I want to be clear. I’m not saying I don’t believe in best friends. In fact, I believe the opposite. I have a lot of friggin amazing girlfriend, and I’m sure you’ve heard this line before, but I really couldn’t be the wife, mother, daughter, sister, business woman I am without them. And each of them is the best at something that me, Laura, needs from a friend. Like Janet. A friend since high school whose lived all my lifetimes with me, she is the hands down best at reminding me that I have the chutzpah to handle whatever is going on in my life. Knowing all the peaks and valleys of my backstory, Janet can always summon a story (one that I’ve somehow completely forgotten) about how I persevered in the past reminding me that I’ve got this. Or Ceri. She’s the best at calming my fiery temper making me more level and understanding. Kathy is the very best at listening without judgment to this hypochondriac’s worries and fears. In other words, I just don’t think it’s realistic to expect one person to be the best at everything you need from a friend. Instead I believe in a squad or tribe of bestie; those girls who are the best at giving you those things you uniquely need from friendship. For once, I think Taylor Swift and all these millennials are onto something good.

Scarlett will inevitably swear best friendhood with someone, someday. It’s part of being a girl. As of now, she has yet to ever use the title. Maybe she understand the responsibility that comes along with it? Until she does, I’ll continue to steer clear of encouraging the monicker. Why put that pressure on someone? And why put that pressure on her?

However, I will not stop calling food or certain dishes our best friends. Not just because there is something magical that happens if you eat a warm chocolate chip cookie when you’re feeling like you’re dangling by your last nerve but because some recipes really are the best at satiating a need for you and your family. Like this pasta dish. It uses the spring favourite of asparagus and kid-friendly peas. It’s all cozy in a creamy creme fraiche sauce. Oh, and the best part? It’s a pasta. Do you know any kids that don’t consider pasta the meal equivalent of a best friend? Ok, there are a few who have matching necklaces with grilled cheese but those kids are easily swayed. The bottom line: this dish is everyone’s best friend for its ease and ability to make the whole family happy.

Creamy Penne Pasta with Asparagus and Peas

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: Makes: 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 500g penne
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 bunch of asparagus, ends snapped off and cut into thirds
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 2 cups peas
  • 1 cup creme fraiche
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives

Method

Preheat a large cast-iron pan over moderate heat. Add a tablespoon of olive oil and the asparagus pieces and cook until fork tender, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and shallots and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta according to package directions, about 12 minutes. In the last minute of cooking time, drop your peas into the water. Drain the pasta and peas, reserving about 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

Add the pasta and peas to the skillet  with the asparagus and toss well. Add the creme fraiche and stir until the pasta is nicely coated. Add the the reserved pasta water a tablespoon at a time to get the sauce to desired consistency. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with chives and serve right away.

 

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