Pasta primavera, simplified
Food trends, like fashion, go in and out of style.
The kale munching millennials of today would be appalled by the popular Jell-O mold “salads” from the 1950s. Five years from now no one in your family is going to wax nostalgic about the turducken you served one Thanksgiving.
Nonetheless, like the basic black dress, some recipes remain classics.
In 1976, Sirio Maccioni, co-owner of the famed Le Cirque restaurant in New York City, combined a spaghetti with vegetables dish with one in Alfredo style. Craig Clairborne raved about it in a New York Times article, and soon people began coming to the restaurant asking for “spaghetti alla primavera.”
The French chef working at the time didn’t do spaghetti, so the dish was prepared tableside for diners who requested it. Renamed a more alliterative pasta primavera, a legend was born.
Pasta primavera is not a recipe that comes together in minutes, but the preparation is straightforward and most of it can be done ahead of time. I’ve adapted the original recipe to make it more convenient for today’s cooks.
Maybe you can’t make it to a 5-star restaurant in New York, but you can enjoy the same signature dish in your home.
11/2 cups green beans, trimmed and cut into1-inch lengths
8 asparagus spears, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large broccoli crown, broken into bite-size florets
1 zucchini, cut into 1-inch cubes
10 snow peas
1 tablespoon oil
2 cups thinly sliced mushrooms
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic, divided
3 cups diced tomatoes
6 fresh basil leaves, chopped, or about 1 teaspoon dried basil
1 pound spaghetti
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons vegetable broth or water
1/2 cup heavy cream or more
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup pine nuts
In a medium-size pot, place the green beans, asparagus, broccoli, zucchini and snow peas. Cover with about 1 inch water and steam for 5 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water, drain again and place in a mixing bowl.
Heat the 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet, and add the mushrooms. Add salt and pepper to taste, shaking the skillet and stirring. Cook about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms to the vegetables. Add pepper flakes and parsley.
Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a saucepan and add half the garlic, the tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste. Cook about 4 minutes, stirring gently so as not to break up the tomatoes more than necessary. Add basil, stir and set aside.
Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil in large skillet and add remaining garlic along with vegetable mixture. Cook, stirring gently, just to heat through.
Cook the spaghetti in salted water until al dente. Drain well. In the same pot, without the spaghetti, add the butter. When it melts, add broth, 1/2 cup cream and cheese, stirring constantly. Cook over low heat until smooth. Add the spaghetti and toss quickly to blend. Drain the tomatoes and add the liquid to the spaghetti. Reserve the tomato pieces in the strainer. Add the vegetables, tossing over very low heat. If the sauce looks too dry, add more cream. Add the pine nuts and give the mixture a final tossing.
Serve the spaghetti in large pasta bowls, topping each dish with reserved tomatoes.
— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section.