Shelling peas is far from the most-enticing kitchen task. Still, when spring's nimble green orbs debut, this soup proves the manual labor is well worth the effort. Anthony Strong, the chef at San Francisco's Locanda, a new Roman-inspired restaurant from the creators of Delfina, uses both the freshly shelled peas and their pods to create this intensely flavored soup. He also adds a bonus dose of spring flavor courtesy of crisp pea shoots and lettuce, and intensifies the soup with a robust stock made from prosciutto hock and Parmesan rind. This soup's concentrated spring flavors will have us clamoring for our soupspoons long into the season.
Pea and Lettuce Soup with RicottaRecipe adapted from Anthony Strong, Locanda, San Francisco, CA
Yield: 4 servings
Cook Time: 1 hour
1 prosciutto hock (ask your favorite gourmet store to save you one) or un-smoked ham hock
8 ounces Parmesan rinds (about 3 rinds)
2 bay leaves
5 coriander seeds
2 pounds English peas
1 handful pea shoots (about 3 ounces)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
1 ounce pancetta, thinly sliced
1 head Little Gem lettuce, cut into ½-inch squares
8 ounces ricotta salata, thinly sliced
Cracked black pepper
1. Make the broth: In a large stock pot, combine 2½ quarts of water with the prosciutto hock, Parmesan rind, bay leaves, coriander and a large pinch of salt. Bring to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.
2. Shuck the fresh peas and reserve the pods. (You'll get about 3½ cups peas.) Rinse the pods, peas and pea shoots separately in cold water, then drain. Add the pea pods to the simmering broth.
3. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until it sizzles and begins to crisp, about 4 minutes. Stir in the peas and a pinch of salt and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook for 2 minutes until the peas soften slightly, then stir in the lettuce, a quarter of the pea shoots and 1 cup of the broth. Turn the heat down to medium and continue to simmer, stirring frequently.
4. Place the rest of the pea shoots in a blender and carefully add the remaining broth through a fine-mesh strainer, discarding the pea pods and rinds. Blend at high speed until the mixture is smooth. Stir the pureed broth into the pancetta-pea mixture and cook until the peas and lettuce are soft, about 7 to 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
5. To serve, ladle the soup into 4 bowls, top each with a few slices of ricotta salata, a generous drizzle of olive oil and a small pinch of black pepper.