Saturday, June 13, 2009

Pasta Primavera

After our CSA pick-up and a trip to the farmers’ market, we had a bounty of colorful vegetables which reminded me of a light and spring-like pasta primavera I ordered at an Italian restaurant in Scottsdale last year. I could still imagine the taste of the fresh and pretty green beans and zucchini in a simple, brothy sauce with shallots. So, with that in mind, I started flipping through books just to see if any specifics in various pasta primaveras could add inspiration. There’s a classic recipe by Craig Claibrone, but it includes a fair amount of butter, some cream, and a few steps of blanching, draining, and whathaveyou. I was aiming for something simpler with more of a wine and shallot sauce.

Next, I turned to The Martha Stewart Cookbook, and there I found a recipe that actually made me giggle. Martha is so great, she really is, but this particular recipe required a few ingredients that weren’t just suggestions or options. They were less than completely common things, but they seemed to be required. The list included red currant vinegar (or other fruit vinegar), pimiento oil (with a suggestion to make your own if you don’t find it at a gourmet shop), and purple basil. Why red currant vinegar? Now, I do love hunting down out-of-the-ordinary ingredients, and I’m willing to place online orders for things like fennel pollen. But, usually when such ingredients are suggested, there’s a note about what easier-to-find, common items could be substituted or a note about why the specific ingredient is used. Here, there was no explanation for why this specific vinegar was necessary or that any fresh basil would be fine. That struck me as funny given that the book was published 14 years ago when those things would have been even more difficult to locate. It just so happens that I have a purple basil plant, and I would have been willing to make some pimiento oil and shop for red currant vinegar, but this was ultimately a pasta salad and not exactly what I wanted to make. Just for fun, I looked at Whole Foods, and they had no red currant vinegar. Raspberry was the only fruit vinegar.

With nothing but a memory of a sauce with shallots, I left the books behind and whipped up my own version of a pasta primavera. I realize that the vegetables I used here are just as specific as that vinegar and basil, but I’ll explain that substitutions are fine. I had red and yellow carrots, red and yellow small, pear-shaped tomatoes, zucchini and summer squash, and green beans. Any carrots and any tomatoes will be delicious. I had overheard a farmer telling a customer that the red carrots were best when roasted, so I thought of roasting everything. By starting with the carrots and adding other vegetables in increments during the roasting time, each would spend the appropriate amount of time in the oven. That seemed simpler than several separate steps for blanching and sauteeing. I did blanch the green beans because I thought they would be crisper that way, but they could have been roasted too. For a sauce, I sauteed shallots and garlic, added wine which was reduced, finished with a little butter and lemon, and combined that with the vegetables and some linguine. Shards of parmigiano reggiano, some lemon zest, and yes, my purple basil completed the dish. It wasn’t exactly what I remembered from the restaurant last year, but it was its own lovely kind of thing. The shallot, wine, and lemon sauce provided just the flavor I wanted for this, and the vegetables couldn’t have been better. Next time, I’ll most likely find different vegetables or they’ll taste a little different or I’ll add mushrooms or forget the squash or use penne instead of linguine. This dish is never the same thing twice, but it’s always a great mix of fresh ingredients.

My Version of Pasta Primavera as I Made It This Time

1 medium zucchini, chopped into large chunks
1 medium yellow summer squash, chopped into large chunks
4 red carrots, scrubbed and hairy root fibers removed but not peeled because only the outer layer is red and if you peel them they’ll be orange, chopped
4 yellow carrots, peeled and chopped
1 c small, yellow pear tomatoes, halved
1 c red, grape tomatoes, halved
2 c green beans, cleaned and stems removed, cut into one-inch pieces
1 lb. linguine
3 T olive oil
2 shallots, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Juice and zest of one lemon
1 c dry, white wine
2 T cold butter, cut into eight or so pieces
3 T fresh, flat leaf parsley, chopped or curly parsley or leave it out if you don’t have it on hand
Fresh basil, chopped or cut into chiffonade, and do use purple basil if you have it
Parmigiano reggiano
Olive oil for roasting vegetables
Salt and pepper to taste

-pre-heat oven to 425 degrees F; place chopped carrots on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper; toss to coat with olive oil; place in oven and roast for 10 minutes
-in a mixing bowl, toss zucchini and squash chunks with olive oil, salt, and pepper; remove baking sheet from oven; using a spatula, slice carrots to side of sheet while turning them; add zucchini and squash to baking sheet keeping in mind that the sheet is hot; return baking sheet to oven and roast for 10 minutes more
-in same mixing bowl, toss tomatoes with olive oil, salt, and pepper; remove baking sheet from oven; using spatula, make room for tomatoes while turning carrots, zucchini, and squash, add tomatoes to sheet; return baking sheet to oven and roast for 10 minutes more
-meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; also bring a small saucepan of salted water to a boil; in small saucepan, boil green beans for five minutes and then shock them in cold water and drain
-in a medium saute pan, heat three tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat; add shallots and saute for three minutes; add garlic and saute until shallots are translucent; pour in one cup of wine and simmer until wine is reduced by half; whisk in one piece of butter at a time, whisking until butter is melted and incorporated before adding next piece; once all butter is incorporated into sauce, season to taste with salt and pepper, remove from heat and whisk in lemon juice
-cook pasta according to package instructions while preparing sauce
-in a large mixing bowl, could be the same one used for tossing vegetables with oil, combine roasted vegetables, drained green beans, cooked and drained pasta, shallot wine lemon sauce, lemon zest, parsley, and most but not all of the basil; taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed
-serve with shards of parmigiano reggiano and sprinkle remaining basil lovingly over top of each serving


  1. love this--pasta with vegetables is my usual go-to dish when i have a bounty of veggies. anything roasted just adds a special layer of flavor, don't you think? i love your veggie: pasta ratio. i justify eating pasta often by adding a higher ratio of veggies to it!

  2. Yum, that looks utterly delicious! Good for you for throwing the books aside and trusting yourself as a chef! You certainly have the chops. I'd take your dish over Martha's stuffy one anyday.

  3. Your CSA has great stuff! Thanks for the laugh along with the recipe, and it looks wonderful!

  4. oh man... this looks awesome! so refreshing and healthy! just the way the girl I'm interested in likes! I'll give this a try. hehe. thanx! :)

  5. What a gorgeous colorful dish! I've always just loved Craig Claiborne and have two of his cookbooks. However, he didn't write them in the Age Of Awareness, did he? I love it that you just roasted all the veggies. I'll have to try that.

    My pasta salads usually consist of whatever happens to be left in the fridge or freezer.

  6. I love it...& I love it that's it's your version! Wonderful read throught he post too; enjoyed the banter! xoxo

  7. wow this dish gave me a summer nostalgia feeling -

  8. Never heard of yellow carrots - sounds good. I like your version better than the Marth Stewart version with the vinegar and the roasted veggies sounds delightful.

  9. This looks very delicious and healthy!!!. I'm really loving the colors going on in that plate.

  10. I do ANYTHING to have one share of the pasta! Lucky you, have varieties of veggies there.

  11. What a gorgeous pasta primavera! I love all the colors and veggies :)

  12. you mean you don't have a bottle of red currant vinegar lying around?
    well when are you going to make some?

  13. Your version sounds a galaxy more approachable than Martha's! Don't get me wrong, I think she's the queen of all things, but her recipes are complicated and call for some needy ingredients!

  14. Yummy! Perfect summer pasta! I love every single ingredients that going into this dish.

  15. What a colourful and appetising pasta! and purple basil? I've never seen that before.

  16. You have taked this pasta dish to a whole new level..Im running to the farmers market right now!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Figtreeapps

  17. Love the colors in this dish! I think it looks amazing and you did a great job of making it all up yourself...:)

  18. wow look at those carrots! I see they kept the beautiful hue even after cooking too. Beautiful recipe to highlight them too! I clicked that stumble button so more people could enjoy them too. GREG

  19. terrific title for your dish. :)
    meanwhile, pasta primavera just screams healthy and fresh and nurturing, and i love your take on it here. it makes me pine for some fresh tomatoes, that's for sure!

  20. Such a colorful dish! I love it!

  21. That fancy pants Martha! I like your version better - your sauce sounds light and perfect for this. Not so overpowering that the fresh taste of the veggies is hidden. It's beautiful!

  22. I love dishes that appeal to both the appetite and the aesthetic. This certainly does both! Colorful and healthy all at once. Gorgeous!

  23. :-D

    Lovely color & what a wonderful primavera. I always make primavera esp. during this time of the year, only becoz of the wonderful colors it adds to the dish.

  24. What a wonderful pasta primavera with all these farm fresh colorful veggies! Delicious!

  25. Wow, I can almost taste the wonderful flavors of all those fantastic veggies. It looks very very good!

  26. Sorry I haven't been around lately. What a colourful pasta dish. I love all the ingredients in it.

  27. WOW, those carrots are GORGEOUS!!!! I love all the other wonderful veggies too!

  28. What lovely colours!! It looks like a lot of work,but the amount of veggies are just TOO tempting not to give it a try :)

  29. This looks stunningly good!

    Lot of prep work though, huh? Stupid tasty vegetables with all the slicing and peeling and cutting, drat.

    I haven't seen any of those red carrots for a while now, I'm gonna be on the lookout.

  30. Love the colors and now I want my garden to grow more so I can enjoy them too.

    Nicely done!


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