Here’s a great recipe for a classic Italian-style dish that was a staple on restaurant menus back in the 1970s: Pasta Primavera. It’s origins are a little hazy, but it’s a good story – almost as good as the dish itself! And a Primavera supper is a great way to celebrate the coming of summer…
Here’s another version of Pasta Primavera – using Sweet Pepper strips and
Asparagus tips. Like I say: you’ll develop your own preferences…
‘Primavera’ is simply Italian for ‘spring’, and Pasta Primavera is a celebration of the first fresh Veggies of the season. You can have it by itself, as a Vegetarian dish, or add Chicken or Shrimp for a heartier main.
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not an Italian dish; just an Italian-style one. Tales of its origins agree on the players involved but can’t quite agree on whether the dish was first served at renowned Italian Chef Baron Carlo Amato’s Nova Scotia, Canada summer place or in New York City, by Le Cirque co-owner Sirio Maccioni who claimed he threw it together for the first time out of ingredients that were on hand during a visit to Amatos’ home…
Also contrary to common belief, true Pasta Primavera is not a Tomato Sauce dish – but fresh Tomatoes are prominent in its ingredient list.
Slight twists in my recipe
My favourite recipe for Pasta Primvera is actually a simplified version, using some frozen Veggies – a strategy that cuts cooking and overall prep time, and simplifying the assembly of the dish.
You can use frozen veggies exclusively – a great idea for the dead of winter, when fresh Veggies are either hard to get or pricey or both – but I prefer to use fresh Zucchini, Broccoli and Tomatoes at least, regardless if the season.
Classic Pasta Primavera usually contains Broccoli, Zucchini and Tomatoes, and can also feature Peas, Carrots, Asparagus Tips, Fava Beans and just about any other ‘summer’ Veggie you choose. I have my preferences as to which Veggies to use, and you’ll soon develop your own.
What you need
1 cup / 250 ml dry Pasta of your choice; Penne, Rotini, Orecchiette…
1 small Green Zucchini, diced 3/4 in. / 2 cm
1 small Yellow Zucchini, diced 3/4 in. / 2 cm
1 cup / 250 ml Cherry or Grape Tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup / 120 ml fresh or frozen Green Peas
1/2 cup / 120 ml fresh or frozen Fava Beans
1 cup / 250 ml fresh or frozen Broccoli Florets
1/2 cup / 125 ml grated Parmesan or Romano Cheese
1/2 cup / 125 ml Heavy Cream
1/4 cup / 60 ml Veggie Stock
4 cloves fresh Garlic, minced or pressed
1 cup (loose) fresh basil
1/4 cup / 60 ml Butter
What you do
Be sure to par-cook any fresh Veggies before starting to assemble the dish. The classic term is blanching, and just means immersing them in raucously boiling Water. Use lots of Water and salt as if you were boiling Pasta. After a few minutes, remove the Veggies from the boiling Water with a slotted spoon and plunge into Ice Water. This step is particularly important for fresh Broccoli and Fava Beans.
Put the Veggie pot back on the heat and add your Pasta. Your Pasta will re-absorb lots of good stuff lost from the Veggies in cooking.
In a deep frying or sauté pan, pre-heated to medium, add the Butter, Garlic, Blanched Veggies and Tomatoes and sauté until they begin to soften.
Toss in your frozen veggies and the blanched ones, and your Tomatoes.
Stir to distribute all ingredients evenly among the others.
Pour in the Veggie Stock and cover until the frozen Veggies are thawed, and the Garlic is fragrant.
When the veggies are all cooked to the same level of doneness (al dente), add the Cream and Parmesan.
The Pasta should be cooked to al dente by now. Drain the Pasta and add to the Sauce, stirring gently to incorporate evenly.
Add the pre-cooked Chicken or Shrimps (if used) and cover until they’re properly re-heated.
Taste for Salt adding more if needed. Add a generous grind of Fresh Ground Black Pepper over all.
Serve immediately, ideally in warmed wide-brimmed Soup Bowls.
A side basket of warm Garlic Bread is never out of place with this dish…
The instructions look onerous, but they’re mainly just side comments to the main procedure, which is really just a one-pot toss-in meal, if you go ahead and use all-frozen Veggies.
Feel free to use more Stock if you want to ensure that the Veggies don’t go dry while thawing and cooking.
Frozen Veggies, by the way, are great option to fresh for any dishes you’d otherwise have to do a lot of blanching and dicing to prep for. They’re harvested fresh and flash frozen within an hour of picking, preserving all, the fresh colour and nutrients you’d get in the fresh stuff. I always keep a good selection of frozen Veggies in the house to streamline the prep for Soups, Stews and other dishes – like today’s!
Gently stir in the Basil just before serving.
Serve as soon as the Cream and Parmesan come together in what will remind you of a nice Alfredo Sauce. Cooking too long can cause the sauce to curdle. Yuk…
And there you have it!
… A healthy, flavourful dish the whole family will love in as little as 25 minutes. I like to save any leftovers in a tightly covered freeze container and roll them in Breakfast Burritos the next morning. Add some Jack or White Cheddar to bolster the presence of the Ches flavour and add a nice gooey Cheese pull!
~ Maggie J.