As American as Baseball, Mom’s Apple Pie and Pasta? Yep. If you’re talking about pasta primavera you’re talking All-American cuisine. And if you’re looking for the perfect spring or early summer dish, then you need look no further than this classic pairing of fresh spring vegetables and pasta in a light cream sauce.
Some of you may remember this dish from restaurant menus everywhere in the early 80′s. For those of you who do, don’t be afraid. This is not the mediocre (at best) prepackaged and over salted version of the dish that saturated family dining establishments for much of the latter 20th century, but a near faithful recreation of the original pasta primavera, attributed to the Le Cirque restaurant in New York City.
Having said that, please note that this is indeed a restaurant recipe. It was intended for a professional kitchen with no end of clean dishes, bowls, pots and pans. You’re going to have a bit of cleanup on your hands at the end of the exercise, but the end result is worth it… Well worth it.
This dish is an Italian-American classic in need of interpretation from a new generation of cooks and indeed has been tackled recently by contemporary cooks such as Hank Shaw, Elise Bauer and Giada De Laurentiis, all of whom have their own take on the dish, all with great results.
The best part, aside from the sheer enjoyment of the finished product, is that there really is no recipe needed. Pasta Primavera in its most basic form is “spring pasta”. It can include meats such as chicken, shrimp or bacon but if so, go sparingly on the protein. this dish is about the vegetables and should always be so. It’s a celebration of spring on a plate, so cook what’s fresh and you’ll have a winner every time.
Does your family have a Pasta Primavera recipe of its own? If so, please share the differences between the original and your family favorite. Please feel free to post links if you happen to have them. Enjoy!
Recipe: Pasta Primavera
Summary: Pasta Primavera, an American original – Based on the original recipe from Le Cirque (Original recipe here)
- 1 bunch broccoli, trimmed and cut into bite-size florets
- 2 small zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-inch lengths
- 6 asparagus spears (about 5 inches long), peeled, trimmed, and cut into thirds
- 1 1/2 cups green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cups thinly sliced mushrooms
- 1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced finely
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
- 3 cups seeded, diced ripe tomatoes, reserve the juice separately
(Note. I didn’t have vine ripened or fresh, so a large can of fire roasted tomatoes was substituted.)
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
- 6 fresh basil leaves, chopped
- 1 pound spaghetti or spaghettini
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
- 1/2 cup heavy (whipping) cream, or more if needed
- 2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2/3 cup toasted pine nuts
- Cook the broccoli, zucchini, asparagus, and green beans in boiling salted water until crisp but tender, about 4 minutes. Add the peas and cook for 1 minute more. Drain and refresh the vegetables in cold water. Drain and set aside in a mixing bowl.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a nonreactive large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the mushrooms and jalapeno and sauté for about 2 minutes. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil, the garlic, and tomatoes and cook, stirring gently so as not to break up the tomatoes, for about 4 minutes. Add the parsley and basil; stir and set aside.
- Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water until just al dente; the spaghetti must retain just a slight resilience in the center. Drain.
- Meanwhile, in a nonreactive pot large enough to hold the drained spaghetti and all of the vegetables, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the cream and Parmesan and stir constantly until heated through. When hot, reduce the heat and cook gently on and off the heat until smooth. Add the spaghetti and toss quickly to blend. Add half of the vegetables and pour in the reserved juice from the tomatoes. Toss and stir over very low heat until the mixture is heated through, 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add the remaining vegetables and toss gently. If the sauce seems too dry, add additional cream, but the sauce should not be soupy. Adjust the seasonings. Add the pine nuts and give the mixture one final toss. Serve in heated soup or spaghetti bowls. Spoon some of the tomato mixture over each serving.
- Serve immediately.
What I would have done differently had I thought of it at the time:
This has been changed up a bit from the original with the use of a LOT more spice than the original, but that isn’t necessary at all to have a wonderful dish. Also, most recipes we’ve seen call for additional Parmesan cheese, but it is not at all necessary and should probably be avoided. This is a dish best served simply so that the vegetables shine through on their own merits.