Pasta dishes for springtime
Photo: Adobe Stock
Pasta Primavera

By Tina Wasserman

My daffodils are blooming in spite of the horrible freeze we had a few weeks ago. As I sit at my desk, my blue jay family is chirping away in the wonderful sunshine. Could spring be that far away? I don’t think so.

I was checking my archives for recipes that would feel like the season and I found a favorite of mine that contains the name “spring,” Pasta Primavera. Utilizing many of the green vegetables that are freshest in the markets right now, this recipe is a crowd-pleaser perfect for entertaining or for a family of more than two. It makes a lot. It also seems very daunting but it isn’t. There are many steps because I tried to break it down for you. All the vegetables can be prepared in advance and refrigerated for later use, even for the next day. The tomato mélange can be cooked and gently warmed in the microwave before topping the finished dish, so ultimately the recipe is user-friendly!

In case you are thinking of never talking to me again because of the length of the aforementioned recipe, here’s one that is refreshing and easy to serve as a main dish or as a side to grilled fish.

I know, this recipe looks too long, but it is oh so good and as healthy as you can get. Even the use of cream is a small amount for a large platter of food. Made in stages, this recipe really isn’t that hard and is perfect for entertaining, so try it!

Pasta Primavera

  • 1 small head of broccoli
  • 2 small zucchinis
  • 4 asparagus spears
  • ¼ pound green beans
  • ½ cup frozen green peas
  • ¼ pound snow peas
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups thinly sliced mushrooms, Cremini or Baby Bellas preferred
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • ½ teaspoon dried pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup parsley
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves minced garlic or 2 pods Dorot garlic
  • 6 Campari tomatoes or 3 ripe tomatoes or 12 pear tomatoes, diced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
  • 8 ounces of your favorite dry pasta (fettuccine, penne, bowtie, etc.)
  • ½ stick unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable broth or pasta cooking water
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts or slivered almonds

1. Trim broccoli and cut into flowerets.

2. Wash and trim ends of the zucchini. Quarter lengthwise and cut into 1-inch pieces.

3. Break off hard ends of the asparagus spears and cut into thirds.

4. Trim green beans and cut into 1-inch lengths.

5. Starting with the green beans, then zucchini, then broccoli and then asparagus, cook each of the green vegetables separately in a pasta pot with salted water until crisp-tender. Remove and drain before cooking the next vegetable. Add all to a 4-quart bowl.

6. Add the peas and the pea pods to the remaining boiling water and cook for 1 minute. Drain, add to the bowl of vegetables and refrigerate until assembling the dish.

7. Heat a medium frying pan over high heat for 10 seconds. Add the 1 tablespoon olive oil to the pan and heat for 10 seconds more. Add the mushrooms, some salt and pepper and sauté for 2 minutes or until soft and lightly golden. Add to the chilled vegetables along with the dried pepper flakes and parsley. Return to the refrigerator.

8. Heat a 2-quart saucepan for 10 seconds. Add 3 tablespoons of the olive oil to the pan along with the chopped tomatoes and half the garlic. Season lightly with salt and pepper and simmer for 4 minutes. Stir in chopped basil and set aside.

9. When ready to assemble, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain.

10. While pasta is cooking, heat a 12-inch frying pan over high heat for 10 seconds.

11. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil and heat for 10 seconds before adding the remaining garlic and all of the refrigerated vegetables in the bowl. Cook just to heat through.

12. Meanwhile, in a 6-quart pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter. Add the vegetable broth, cream and cheese. Stir over medium heat until the mixture is smooth.

13. Add the drained pasta to the sauce and gently toss to coat. Add HALF the vegetables and nuts, toss gently and place on a large platter.

14. Top the dish with the remaining vegetables and the tomato mixture.

Serves 8.

Tina’s Tidbits:

  • If you use a pasta pot with a straining basket to blanch your vegetables, you won’t have to wait to bring new pots of salted water to a boil for each vegetable to cook.
  • I have listed the vegetables in the order to cook them so that the delicately flavored vegetables are not tainted by the strong flavors of the asparagus or broccoli.
  • The recipe can be made through step 7 earlier in the day or even a day in advance.
  • A pinch of bouillon can be added to the water to add an extra flavor profile if you don’t have any broth readily available.

Marinara Sauce with Artichokes and Olives

Easy, bright flavors, vegan or vegetarian with optional Parmesan cheese. A great addition to any meal.

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 28-ounce can recipe-ready tomatoes
  • 2 6-ounce jars marinated artichoke hearts, drained, artichokes cut in half lengthwise
  • ½ cup Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
  • 12 ounces mostaccioli or rotelli

1. In a 4-quart saucepan, sauté the garlic and the onion in the olive oil for 5 minutes over moderate heat (DO NOT BURN THE GARLIC!) until the onion is softened and translucent.

2. Add the wine and cook for 3-5 minutes or until the wine is reduced almost completely.

3. Add the canned tomatoes and simmer for 20 minutes.

4. Stir in the artichokes and the olives and simmer for 5 more minutes.

5. Serve over cooked mostaccioli or rotelli.

Serves 4 or more.

Tina’s Tidbits:

  • There are cloves and there are CLOVES of garlic. I prefer to use larger cloves from the head of garlic (some cooks don’t differentiate but a head is the whole bulb of garlic comprising many cloves).
  • I love the frozen cubes of Dorot garlic found in many supermarket frozen food sections. Trader Joe’s definitely has it. It is a great time-saver when making sauces.
  • Recipe-ready means that the tomatoes are already crushed so you don’t have to drain and chop the canned tomatoes.
  • One negative to recipe-ready is that it often contains some seeds. Even if using fresh tomatoes some seeds get into the sauce, so do as Italian cooks do and add a pinch of sugar to counteract any bitterness from the seeds.

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