Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pasta Primavera

What would spring be without preparing a pasta primavera (literally Spring Pasta) at least once?  Consider this recipe a template, and use any of the best, freshest vegetables you can find at your local farmers' market or grocery store in place of the ingredients below.

  • 1 and 1/2 cups baby carrots (about 6 ounces)*
  • 3 cups (8 ounces) uncooked corkscrew-shaped pasta (such as cavatappi or gobbetti)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 cups halved pattypan squash*
  • 3/4 cup shelled green peas*
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup vegan dry white wine
  • 1/3 cup plain non-dairy creamer
  • 1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup grated vegan cheese
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1. Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a large saucepan.  Add the carrots and cook for 3 minutes.  Remove the carrots with a slotted spoon.  Add the pasta and cook according to package directions, then drain and set aside.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the pattypan squash; saute for 3 minutes.  Add the carrots, the peas, the salt, the black pepper, and the garlic; saute for 2 minutes.  Stir in the wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any browned bits.

Note: try an unfiltered Pouilly-Fume or Sancerre from France in this recipe - the "green" notes to such wines are the perfect complement to the spring flavors in the dish. Serve the rest of the bottle with the pasta for dinner.

3. Add the creamer and the lemon juice; cook for 1 minute.

4. Add the pasta and the cheese, stirring well to coat, then remove from heat and stir in the basil and parsley.  For the cheese, I used the strong cheddar from Sheese, which mimics the sharp taste of a fresh grated cheese like Parmesan or Romano; however, you can use any brand you like best.

*I have several ingredient notes for this dish.  When buying baby carrots, don't even think about using the whittled down little stubs sold in packages and labeled "baby carrots."  These are actually just pieces of big carrots that didn't make the cut to be sold whole.  Instead, look for spring's true baby carrots with their tops still attached.  Trim the tops so there is just a sprig of green on top, before adding to this recipe.

Likewise for the peas - it's worth seeking out freshly shelled green peas; it seems almost a travesty to use frozen green peas at this time of year.

Finally, pattypan squash are one of the most adorable little vegetables (although I may have to give first prize to the ridiculously cute eight-ball zucchini).  Shaped like a small spinning top, these are just a variety of yellow summer squash.  You could substitute summer squash in a pinch, but the pattypan adds a wonderfully whimsical note to the dish, and is worth seeking out. 

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (2 cups), Calories 373

Tasting Notes:
Fresh! is the word that comes to mind, particularly the peas which felt like they'd traveled no further than my back garden (well, if I had a back garden).  I loved the bright notes from the white wine and the lemon in the sauce, but actually wished that it was a little bit thicker; you might try using vegan sour cream in place of the creamer, for a sauce that coats the pasta better next time.


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