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Fettucine with Spring Peas and Garrotxa

You may be perplexed when you see the word “Garrotxa.” Although popular among cheese aficionados, this Catalonian cheese is only now becoming more widely available. The cheese is unquestionably one of the most appealing aged goat cheeses made today. It is not the least bit goaty but it does have the signature tanginess which is why I chose it. The lemon juice and the tang from the crème fraîche play beautifully with the sweetness of the peas and the sweet/tart flavors in the cheese. This is a very light and refreshing pasta that celebrates spring along with one of the best cheeses made anywhere in the world.

1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup whole or 2% milk (do not use nonfat)
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 cup shelled fresh peas (about 1 pound in the pod), or use frozen peas
8 large leaves red leaf lettuce, cut in half lengthwise, then finely sliced (make sure the lettuce is thoroughly dry before using)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 pound fettucine
6 ounces crème fraîche
2 ounces Garrotxa, finely grated, (or use goat gouda, or Manchego, or aged Mahón)
1 tablespoon julienned lemon zest (a channel zester is the perfect tool for this)
2 ounces Garrotxa, thinly shaved (a vegetable peeler works well for this)
Freshly ground black pepper
Fill a 4-quart saucepan about halfway and add 1tablespoon of the salt. Set over a medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer.

In a large sauté pan, heat the milk and 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat until the butter melts. Add the sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and peas. Turn heat to very low, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the lettuce and lemon juice. The mixture will curdle a little, but don’t worry. It will come together at the end. Cover and cook 5 minutes more. Keep warm.

Meanwhile, make the pasta. Bring the water to the boil, add the pasta, and cook according to the package directions, about 10 minutes, or until the pasta is tender but still offers slight resistance in the bite.

To assemble: Add the pasta, crème fraîche, grated cheese and remaining 1 tablespoon butter to the pea mixture and stir over high heat until the pasta is well coated and the mixture is piping hot. Put pasta on a platter or on individual serving plates. Sprinkle with lemon zest and top with the cheese shavings. Add pepper and serve right away.