Pasta Primavera

My roommate for life has a thing for pasta primavera. To be honest, I’ve never totally understood it. Given a choice, I would order pretty much any other type of pasta dish, every time, hands down. BUT, I love him, so recently I thought I would try my hand at making it at home. I’m delighted to say, it was awesome.

One of the things I don’t like about pasta primavera is that it always seems kinda dry and boring. To combat that, and with total disregard for health, I added some creme fraiche to this dish and it made it just decadent enough while retaining that light and fresh vibe that I think makes pasta primavera a winner. Technically you should make this dish during the spring to pay homage to the italian word for spring and also to use what’s seasonal……but we live in a bizarre time where you can buy spring vegetables any time of the year.  You can sub out the veggies as you prefer, but asparagus, peas, zucchini and tomatoes are basically the “canon” for primavera.

Sad finding: this dish does not keep well or reheat well. The below makes enough for 4 adults in one sitting – adapt down if you need!

Ingredients:

  • One box dry pasta (I used campanelle which was great, but farfalle or penne would work as well)
  • 2 cups zucchini
  • 2 cups asparagus
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cup peas (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 shallot
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (wait to chop it until just before using)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/2 cup creme fraiche (room temperature – alternately you could use greek yogurt)
  • 2/3 cup grated parmesan
  • 1/2 teaspoon red crushed chili pepper
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Preparation:

Heat a large pot of salted water and bring to a boil. While the water is heating, chop your vegetables/prep everything. Chop the zucchini into small cubes, chop the asparagus into 1-2 inch pieces (leaving the top of the asparagus intact), halve or quarter the cherry tomatoes, finely dice the garlic, and chop the shallot. I cut the shallot into rings – not a dice – for aesthetic purposes but any cut will work.

If using fresh peas, cook them separately so you can toss them in at the end without worrying about overcooking them. If using frozen peas, you can take them out of the freezer and you’ll toss them in while still frozen. [The photo below is to show general proportions and prep, but ignore the capers (I decided not to use them) and the fact that the shallot is missing].

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Heat the butter and olive oil in a large skillet, add the shallot and sautee for a few minutes till the shallot starts to turn translucent. At this point hopefully your pasta water is boiling, add the pasta and cook according to the directions on the box (you want al dente pasta…so usually 8-10 minutes).

Add the garlic, zucchini, asparagus, crushed red chili pepper, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper to the skillet. Sautee for another few minutes until the vegetables are just tender.

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Add the peas and tomatoes and allow to warm up with the other vegetables. Note: I forgot to add garlic until the end….total mistake. Definitely add it in the first wave of vegetables, as described above. That’s why the garlic isn’t in the picture above and looks completely uncooked in the picture below. Oh well.

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Before straining the pasta, reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and set aside. This liquid is cooking GOLD. Strain the pasta and return to the large pot. Add the 1/2 cup creme fraiche and 2/3 cup parmesan to the hot pasta, and stir. You should have a delicious, creamy looking pot of pasta…..I dare you not to steal a bite at this point.

Add all of the cooked vegetables from the skillet plus the oregano and basil. Stir and add a little of the reserved pasta water a bit at a time to make the pasta just creamy/saucy enough to be satisfying. You may not use all of the reserved pasta water, but better safe than sorry. Serve immediately!

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