Nothing on earth compares to cherry blossom season in Japan. Falling like snow, the sky is filled with a flurry of petals, drifting gently to coat the ground like a blanket. Perfuming the air with their delicate, unmistakable aroma, this floral profusion touches all the senses. Anyone lucky enough to experience the full bloom even once will never forget that stunning, singular beauty; I know I won’t. It’s hard to imagine enjoying that natural phenomenon every year, like clockwork, come spring.
Old memories come flooding back at the mere mention of hanami, haunting my dreams, spilling over into my waking fantasies. In the blink of an eye, I’m 14 again, roaming the streets of Tokyo, watching as sakura trees sway in the wind, shaking loose torrents of white and pink flowers. They paint the city in pastel sheets, soft and feathery. Ladies carry parasols to shield themselves not from the sun, but from the barrage of ambient pollen.
With travel still strongly discouraged, the Land of the Rising Sun has never felt so far away. One day, I’ll return. One day… But that day is not today. Instead, I’m living inside these powerful flashbacks, creating my own hanami at home. There are no cherry blossom trees in Texas that I can find, so I’m looking elsewhere for inspiration. Naturally, the search begins, and ends, in the kitchen.
To be perfectly honest, this dish began as a wild attempt to use up extra pretzels in the pantry, and nothing more. Pretzel pasta is a pretty unorthodox concept to begin with, so it could have easily ended there. As I began rolling out the dough, however, those pangs of nostalgia gripped me out of the blue, guiding me to the sakura-shaped vegetable cutters. No mere pile of salted noodles, these dainty pink macaroni really did blossom in the bowl.
For anyone less affected by sakura fever, feel free to skip right over the coloring and shape the dough any which way you please. The darkly alkaline flavor of the pretzels is irresistible when paired with a mustard or cheese sauce, as one might enjoy with the original snacks.
This year, I’ll stick with live streams of various parks and stations around Japan, broadcasting the blossoms 24/7, while enjoying this unconventional edible tribute at home.
Pretzel Pasta Dough:
- 3 Cups (4.5 Ounces) Mini Pretzel Twists
- 2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
- 1 Cup Aquafaba
For Coloring (Optional):
- 2 Tablespoons Powdered Kale or Spinach
- 1 Tablespoon Powdered Beets
Dijon Butter Sauce, to Serve (Optional):
- 6 Tablespoons Vegan Butter
- 3 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons Dijon Mustard
- 1 Tablespoon Nutritional Yeast
- 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
- 1/4 Teaspoon Smoked Paprika
- 1/8 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
- 1 Cup Fresh or Frozen and Thawed Green Peas
- 1 - 2 Tablespoons Fresh Parsley, Minced
- To make the pasta dough, begin by combining the pretzels and flour in your food processor. Grind the mixture until it reaches a uniform, powdery consistency. Sift through a fine-meshed strainer and remove any remaining large pieces. Place the flour mixture in the bowl of your standing mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix on the lowest speed, slowly drizzling in the aquafaba, until a loose dough is formed.
- If you're adding color, divide the dough into two equal pieces. Return one half to the stand mixer and add the powdered greens. Let the machine kneed the dough for 5 - 10 minutes. It should appear smooth, and when pulled, it should be very elastic. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least one hour. Wipe out the bowl and repeat the process for the second half with the beet powder.
- Once properly rested, roll out the pasta dough on a lightly floured surface, as thinly as possible. If you have a genuine pasta roller, this is the time to use it! Use very small bento box vegetable cutters to make leaves and cherry blossoms, or any other shape you prefer. Alternately, simply slice the dough into long strands for fettuccine or pappardelle. Toss lightly with additional flour to prevent the pieces from sticking.
- To cook the pasta, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Let simmer for 2 - 3 minutes, until it begins to smell slightly nutty, and add the lemon juice, mustard, nutritional yeast, salt, paprika, and pepper. Whisk vigorously to incorporate smoothly. Turn down the heat as low as possible to keep warm.
- Plunge the pasta into the boiling water and cook for just 2 - 4 minutes, until al dente. Drain thoroughly and and add to warmed sauce along with the peas. Transfer to bowls and top with parsley. Enjoy right away.
To prepare the pasta in advance, after tossing the cut shapes with flour, spread the pieces out evenly to dry. Let sit, undisturbed, for 12 - 24 hours, depending on how humid your environment is. Your pasta is ready if it snaps in half when twisted. If it bends, flexes or otherwise gives, it needs more time. Once it’s finished, store the dried pasta in an airtight container.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 348Total Fat: 13gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 31mgSodium: 573mgCarbohydrates: 50gFiber: 5gSugar: 2gProtein: 9g
All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on BitterSweetBlog.com should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimations.