Pasta Primavera, and My Life

I work all the time. And so I have time to cook but not to write about it–except for the article I wrote for the April Oakhurst Leaflet. The advance copy is published below for your reading pleasure.

I never understood why T.S. Eliot said that April was the cruellest month until I lived in the Midwest. Expecting the warm spring temperatures of my native South, I was stunned when the end of the month found me in sweaters and the same awful boots I’d been forced to wear almost daily since October.

But luckily we don’t live in the Midwest. We live in a beautiful,warm, sunny climate, where peas and carrots and other delicious things are growing themselves for our tables. There’s no better way to celebrate than to throw these vegetables that are happily sunning themselves in the garden, or snuggling together in the bins at the grocery store as they enjoy the occasional water spritz, into a nice pasta primavera.

Pasta primavera means simply “spring pasta” in Italian. There are zillions of recipes for this dish, but a recipe to my mind destroys the stunning, simple, brilliant concept: Take vegetables you like, cook them a little, and serve them over pasta with oil or in a cream sauce. You can also make it as heavy or light as you like, depending on your current feelings about appearing in public without a sweater.

Instead of a recipe, then, I offer these pasta primavera guidelines.

Ingredients

1 lb. sturdy, thick pasta: (farfalle, penne, rigatoni, spaghetti, linguini, or fettuccine. I don’t suggest cappellini (angel hair) because it easily overcooks.
1 – 2 large onions (chopped) and 2 – 4 cloves garlic (minced).
Butter or olive oil for sauteeing
3 – 4 cups vegetables: carrots, celery, peas, zucchini, broccoli, mushrooms, asparagus, and peppers are excellent choices. Cherry or grape tomatoes are nice too, but don’t cook them–add at the end. Cut the vegetables to suit the texture of the pasta: sliced or chopped for short pastas, julienned or finely chopped for long.
Salt and pepper
Basil, thyme or oregano. If fresh, use 6 – 8 stems of each; if dried, 1 – 2 tsp.
Up to 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Up to 1 cup cream or half and half (optional)

Preparation

Cut vegetables and grate cheese. Put salted water on to boil and cook pasta as you prepare ingredients. Saute onions in butter or oil on medium heat in large skillet. Add garlic and stir. Add vegetables and stir. Add herbs. Cover and cook until just tender. Add cooked pasta. Garnish with cheese.

Swimsuit version: Use olive oil to saute. Add herbs to onion and garlic after sauteeing. Steam vegetables. Pour over cooked pasta; add cheese and olive oil to taste.

Shorts version: Use butter to saute. After vegetables have cooked, add up to ½ cup half and half. Cook on medium heat, uncovered, for 3-5 minutes, until sauce has thickened. Add additional half and half or butter to coat pasta, if needed. Garnish with Parmesan.

Sweater version: After vegetables have cooked, add 1 cup heavy cream and cook on medium heat, uncovered, 3-5 minutes. Reduce heat to low and gradually add 1 cup Parmesan; stir until melted. Garnish with additional Parmesan.

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