Monday, April 4, 2011

Pasta Primavera

It's SPRING!  The sun is shining (here at least), we had temps in the upper 70's and 80's last week, and the first trickle of vegetables on sale at the grocery store has finally begun.

This week I noticed:
Asparagus - $0.97/pound
Green beans - $0.99/pound
Zucchini - $1.00/pound

I even lucked out with the peas - I was scouring the frozen food aisle, and I was about to reach for the Green Giant peas for $2.00 a box, when I noticed the Safeway brand organic peas were also $2.00.  I have noticed I will go for the organic anything now when it's a good deal, so, for me, this was a great find!

These three, beautiful green vegetables are big parts of a pasta dish I found from Cook's Illustrated/America's Test Kitchen recently - pasta primavera!  (If you do not subscribe to ATK's Notes from the Test Kitchen, I highly recommend it!)

I didn't have any problems making this recipe - I just found it takes a lot of time.  I tried to do a lot of things at once - boiling water, prepping vegetables, boiling pasta, but I couldn't time everything together well.  I only made two major changes - I halved the recipe, and instead of heavy cream, I used half and half.  The flavor mavens may be angry at me, but it was what I had in the fridge, and I wanted to lighten the recipe a smidge.

The taste?  Loved it.  I love all the vegetables used in this dish (except maybe the peas, I bet I could have cut the amount of peas in half again) and I managed to season it perfectly during the salt additions.  Mr. Unoriginal Chef saw me plating the dish to photograph and he demanded it for his dinner.

Of course, he only ate it after I picked out all the icky green stuff he didn't like - meaning the peas, the green beans, and the asparagus.  Men.  I deliberately left some peas and green beans in there to make him eat something healthy.

Make this once you start getting your CSA boxes this summer!  Or when you find a great sale at the grocery store like me!

Pasta Primavera from Cook's Illustrated, August 2004

  • 6 ounces green beans, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
  • 12 medium asparagus spears, tough ends snapped off (just bend the asparagus, it will break where it needs to be broken), halved lengthwise and cut diagonally into 3/4 inch pieces
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 8 ounces white mushrooms, sliced thin
  • 4 large plum tomatoes (about 1 pound), peeled, cored and chopped medium
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional) (I did not add this)
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound dried egg fettucine (I used whole wheat linguini)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup shredded basil leaves (whoops, I forgot this)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (I used a whole lemon and squeezed until the proper taste)
  • Grated parmesan cheese, for serving
1.  Boil water for pasta in large pot.  In a second pot, bring water to boil for green vegetables; add 1 tablespoon salt.  

2.  Fill a large bowl with ice water, set aside.

3.  Add green beans to boiling water in smaller pot, cook for 1 1/2 minutes.  Add asparagus, cook for 30 seconds.  Add zucchini, cook for 30 seconds.  Add peas, cook for 30 seconds.  Drain vegetables and dunk into ice water.  Let sit until chilled, about 3 minutes, and drain.  Set aside.

4.  Heat 3 tablespoons butter over medium high heat until foamy in the same pot you used to boil the vegetables.  Add mushrooms, and saute until brown, about 8-10 minutes.  Add tomatoes and red pepper flakes, if using.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer until tomatoes begin to lose their shape, about 7 minutes. Add cream and stir until slightly thickened, about 4 minutes.  Cover to keep warm and set aside.

5.  Add 1 tablespoon of salt to the pasta water and cook pasta until al dente.

6.  While the pasta is cooking, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter in a sauce pan or skillet.  Heat until foamy.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant and lightly colored, about 1 minute.  Add blanched vegetables and cook until heated through and infused with garlic flavor, about 2 minutes.  Season with salt to taste, set aside.

7.  Bring mushroom/tomato sauce back to medium heat.

8.  Drain pasta and return to large pot.  (I didn't do this, since I had cooked my pasta way in advance.  I actually put the pasta into the large skillet with my vegetables.  It worked, just a lot of stirring.)  Add mushroom/tomato sauce, and stir to combine over low heat.  Squeeze lemon juice over pasta, and season with salt to taste.

Serve immediately with grated cheese on top.

Up close and personal with the vegetables!  Eat your veggies!  It should be easy with this dish!

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