When I started this site, I had absolutely no idea just how versatile pasta could be. I also never thought that my family and I would crave pasta as much as we do. In my mind, pasta always had limitations – either in terms of ingredients that could be used – red sauce, white sauce, ground meat, etc. - the time of year (summer seemed great for pasta but winter not so much), or a combination of both. In my mind, pasta was an easy escape to avoid fancy and/or lengthy cooking. Nonetheless, I also readily recognized just how satisfying a simple meal could be. Nothing is quite as delicious as harvesting some fresh tomatoes from your yard, chopping them up, and sautéing them in olive oil with some fragrant garlic and basil. Add some toasted hearty country bread, and you have the perfect summer meal.
Of course, it didn't quite escape me that there were thousands of other combinations out there that would result in something delicious. I've cooked them and I have written about them on this site. Early on in my adventures in cooking, I had noticed Pasta Primavera – that ubiquitous combination of pasta and vegetables that is readily available in most Italian restaurants. I had eaten some, and hated all of them. In hindsight, it wasn't so much the dish itself as it was the presence of broccoli that could be found in absolutely every single version of Pasta Primavera. You see, I cannot deny it: There are some ingredients that I simply do not like – I am not big on brussel sprouts, okra, and broccoli. No thank you. Every once in a while I will include some of these ingredients in a dish, mostly to see whether I can, eventually, come up with a dish that transforms these ingredients into something that I truly like.
I have had this experience with green beans. I am not a fan! However, roughly ten years ago I stumbled upon an Indian dish that consists, basically, of nothing other than beans in a curry paste. I love it to this day. Still, broccoli and company have failed me thus far and this failing has also always kept me away from making Pasta Primavera. In my mind, Pasta Primavera and broccoli are tightly linked – not because the have to be, but because every interpretation of this dish I have ever seen incorporated broccoli.
So, let me tell you how I arrived at making Pasta Primavera – and liking it. A lot! And without broccoli:
Last Sunday I found myself shopping with my mother in law, who was in town for a visit. She suggested we stop for lunch at an iconic local fast food joint. Having never been, I agreed and we soon found ourselves inside a large-scale, rather old and tired looking, fast food restaurant. We ordered just about everything on the menu – from burgers to hot dogs to fries to onion rings. I hated every bite of everything but the hot dog. The food was beige (hurray!) but it was also dripping in grease. So much so, that I started to feel sick to my stomach and had to stop eating this “food.”
The queasiness stuck with me for the rest of the day – I have never regretted eating anything as much as I have regretted this crap (and that's what it was!). Thus, my body seemed to scream out for something healthy, something with lots of veggies, something that would atone for my culinary sins.
I knew I wanted pasta and I knew I wanted vegetables. No meat – I felt like I had overdosed on meat already. A cream sauce seemed appealing – but most of the sauces I had in mind were minimalistic, containing not much more than onions, garlic, and perhaps some green peas.
So I set out to use some other veggies instead – and I did. The result was exactly what I wanted. It also qualified as mostly beige and thus, could be included on this site (I do cook a lot more that what I list here – but if it's not beige, I don't publish it!). Thus, here it is: My interpretation of Pasta Primavera – without that evil broccoli! I know that some people really don't like asparagus and if you are one of them, don't despair. Skip the asparagus and use zucchini or yellow squash instead. The result is just as awesome. It's all fairly beige and it's clearly a hit with picky and difficult eaters...
½ lb. Rotini (Spiral pasta).
½ lb. fresh green asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces (or 1 zucchini or yellow squash).
2 small Carrots, peeled and julienned.
1 Tbs. Olive Oil.
1 cup Cherry or Grape Tomatoes, halved.
2 Garlic Cloves, minced.
½ cup Heavy Whipping Cream.
½ cup Parmgiano Reggiano, grated.
Let's get started:
Put a large pot of salted water on high heat.
Cook the pasta until al dente (according to directions).
While the pasta cooks, make the sauce.
Put a large skillet on medium heat.
Add the olive oil and swirl around.
Add the asparagus.
Add the carrots.
Sauté for about five or six minutes – until the asparagus is tender but retains a little bit of crispness.
Now add the tomatoes and sauté for another two minutes.
Add the garlic and sauté for another minute.
Reduce heat to low.
Add the cream.
Add the grated parmesan.
Stir and let heat through.
By now, the pasta should be done.
Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce.
Mix gently but well so that pasta and veggies are well-integrated.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.