Friday, April 22, 2005


Holy cow, it's been a long time since I've posted a recipe--I've been cooking all this time, I swear, just not new stuff. For my birthday, I even made myself chocolate cupcakes, from scratch, with buttercream frosting. Since those were such basic recipes, pulled from the handy old Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, I don't feel compelled to post them here--but for my first cake-baking experience, everything turned out pretty well. I'm thinking yellow cupcakes with chocolate frosting for A's birthday next week.

But I made this recipe the other day--er, week--and realized that although I've had it for a while, I hadn't made it yet since I moved to California, and thus it's not been written up here. And so I give you a very good recipe for Pasta Primavera, which to me is kind of like the uber-pasta, a blend of all the other pastas I make rolled into one, containing every prototypical pasta-sauce ingredient. Somehow the tomato/olive-oil/garlic/red-pepper-flake/basil gang meets the green-vegetable/mushroom/butter/cream/Parmesan gang and instead of roughing each other up, they get together and work out a plan for world peace. I don't make it too often--because do you need that much excitement that often?--but it's good stuff, and totally worth the extra steps and extra pans involved. Cook it in honor of spring!

6 cups of at least 3 of the following vegetables: broccoli florets, fresh or frozen peas, thin asparagus spears cut into 1-inch lengths, small diced zucchini, diced yellow squash, thin green beans cut into 1-inch lengths
salt to taste
1/2 pound fresh white or brown mushrooms, sliced
3/4 pound ripe plum tomatoes, cored and diced into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 medium cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
12 large basil leaves, shredded
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 pound linguine
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus more to taste

1. Bring several quarts of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. (While it heats, I suggest you do all your prep work first, because this is a complicated recipe that demands your full attention. Cut up your 6 cups of vegetables and set them aside, each vegetable separately, which is a little fussy but that's how the recipe works. Snap the stems from the mushrooms, slice them thinly, set them aside. Mince the garlic, divide it in half, and set the two portions aside separately. Core and dice the tomatoes into 1/2-inch cubes and set them aside too. By the way, when I say "aside," I generally mean that I put the prepped ingredient into one of the five or six bowls I would later use for serving or storing the pasta. There's no point in dirtying a whole new dish for this, and it's not like putting some raw zucchini in a bowl is going to taint that bowl for holding cooked zucchini later.)

2. When the water boils, add the first vegetable, plus salt to taste. Cook until the vegetable is crisp-tender, about 30 seconds for frozen peas, 1 minute for zucchini or yellow squash, or 2 minutes for broccoli, green beans, fresh peas, or asparagus. (Be careful not to overcook the vegetables, because they will continue cooking after you remove them from the water thanks to their inner heat, and they're going to sit around waiting--and thus cooking--for a little while before they get used.) Use a slotted spoon to remove the blanched vegetables to a bowl, then add the next vegetable and cook it, and so forth until they're all together in the bowl.

3. While this is happening, set 4 quarts of salted water in a large pot on the stove and bring it to a boil for cooking the pasta.

4. Once the veggies are blanched and while the pasta water is heating, heat the olive oil in a medium pan over medium heat. When it's warm, add half the garlic and all the red pepper flakes and saute until the garlic is golden, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are heated through, about 3 minutes. (Don't overcook the tomatoes--they should keep their shape.) Shred the basil and throw it in the pan with some salt and pepper to taste, then remove the pan from the heat and set it on a back burner.

5. Set a large skillet on the just-vacated medium-heat burner, add the butter, and melt it. Add the remaining garlic and saute it over medium heat until golden, about 2 minutes. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until they release their juices, about 6 minutes, then season generously with salt and pepper.

6. Sometime during this process, the pasta water will boil; add the linguine and cook until al dente.

7. Add the blanched vegetables to the skillet with the mushrooms and cook them, tossing several times, until they're heated through, about 2 minutes. Then add the cream to the skillet and simmer it until it thickened a bit, 2-3 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust the seasonings if necessary.

8. When the pasta is cooked, drain it and then toss it into the skillet with the sauce, the tomato mixture, and the Parmesan. Serve it with a little more grated cheese and pepper sprinkled on each serving.

Serves: 6
Time: 1 hour

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