Food & Drink

For best results, don't rush this pasta primavera recipe

Go slow and savor

In my late 20s, I lived at the other end of the Midwest, in Columbus, Ohio. A couple blocks from my apartment in Grandview Heights was an exercise studio. Right next door was a teensy Italian restaurant, Presutti’s, where lines formed quickly to get one of the few tables.

Walking by that restaurant could be torture after class. As I passed streetside tables with bowls of steaming pasta, the fragrance of garlic and olive oil wafted from inside. Every dish fairly glistened from olive oil, butterfat and/or sausage. This was the height of the low-fat era and it looked so decadent.

Many times, I fantasized about just sitting down at an open table, but that whole just-came-from-yoga look never worked for me. So I’d hurry home and change.

When I did dine at Presutti’s, I peeked back at the kitchen as much as possible. On a side table were sheets of homemade pasta — both plain and spinach — waiting to be used. Some were for lasagne, each order assembled and baked in a single-serving oval dish.

But as much as I loved that lasagne, it was the pasta primavera that stole my heart.

Those aforementioned sheets of homemade pasta were cut to fettucini size and tossed with an array of vegetables — broccoli, green beans, zucchini, mushrooms — with a touch of cream.

After we left Ohio, I was sorry to hear Presutti’s eventually closed. I did my best to recreate that dish. The recipe that came closest is from Le Cirque, the famous New York City restaurant. Though I never visited Le Cirque, I did find the recipe in Molly O’Neill’s New York Cookbook. For quite some time, this was my standard “company’s coming” pasta dish.

And one day, I don’t know, it’s like we all became fearful of eating pasta, so it fell by the wayside. But I’ve been thinking of springtime — and feeling a big nostalgic for pasta — so here we are.

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Time and attention is the reason this dish is so delicious. To make it properly, one must slow down and step away from the Instant Pot. Not all vegetables cook in the same amount of time, so each one — and there are eight in all — is cooked separately. It also preserves the beautiful color of each vegetable.

There’s a touch of heavy cream at the end, some butter and Parmesan and pine nuts. It’s worth the time and calories and whatever nutrition quotient we are obsessing over these days.

And so long as you’re in the kitchen, let me suggest a dessert that also requires a little time and attention. That’s because zabaione can’t be bought on a grocery store shelf. Also spelled zabaglione or its French version, sabayon, this is a simple Italian custard of eggs, sugar and wine. It’s typically made with Marsala, but sparkling wine or a liqueur such as Grand Marnier can be used. Serve it warm or cold, either alone or poured over fruit. It’s a lovely way to welcome springtime.

Recipes

Le Cirque’s Spaghetti Primavera

Even though this requires patience to cook all eight vegetable separately, it’s worth the effort because you end up with beautiful color and perfect texture. To save time, prepare the vegetables ahead and keep in the refrigerator until you’re ready to finish the dish.

1 bunch broccoli, trimmed and cut into bite-size florets

2 small zucchini, unpeeled, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-inch lengths

4 asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into thirds

1 1/2 cups green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

salt

1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas

3/4 cup fresh or frozen pea pods

1 tablespoon peanut, vegetable or corn oil

2 cups thinly sliced mushrooms

freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried red-pepper flakes

1/4 cup finely chopped parsley

6 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon minced garlic

3 cups seeded, diced ripe tomatoes, juice reserved separately

6 fresh basil leaves, chopped

1 pound spaghetti

4 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons chicken broth

1/2 cup heavy cream, or more if needed

1/2 cup grated Parmesan chese

2/3 cup toasted pine nuts

Cook the broccoli, zucchini, asparagus and green beans one at a time in boiling salted water until crisp but tender. Drain and refresh in cold water. Set aside in a mixing bowl.

Cook the peas and pea pods about 1 minute if fresh or 30 seconds if frozen. Drain, chill with cold water and drain again. Combine with the vegetables.

In a skillet over medium-high heat, heat the peanut oil and add the mushrooms. Season to taste. Cook about 2 minutes, shaking the skillet and stirring. Add the mushrooms, red pepper flakes and parsley to the vegetables.

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a saucepan and add half the garlic, tomatoes, salt and pepper. Cook about 4 minutes. Add the basil.

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Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet and add the remaining garlic and the vegetable mixture. Cook, stirring gently, until heated through.

Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water until almost (but not quite) tender, retaining a slight resilience in the center. Drain well.

In a pot large enough to hold the spaghetti and vegetables, add the butter and melt over medium-low heat. Then add the chicken broth and half a cup each of cream and cheese, stirring constantly. Cook gently until smooth. Add the spaghetti and toss quickly to blend. Add half the vegetables and pour in the liquid from the tomatoes, tossing over very low heat.

Add the remaining vegetables. If the sauce seems dry, add 3 to 4 tablespoons more cream. Add the pine nuts and give the mixture a final tossing.

Serve equal portions of the spaghetti in hot soup or spaghetti bowls. Spoon equal amounts of the tomatoes over each serving. Serve immediately.

Source: Adapted from the New York Cookbook by Molly O’Neill

Zabaione with Fresh Strawberries

Zabaione, also spelled zabaglione or sabayon, is a liquidy Italian custard made with egg yolks, sugar and wine, often Marsala. It can be eaten warm or cold, alone or over fruit.

4 egg yolks, at room temperature

4 tablespoons sugar

3 ounces dry Marsala

1 pound fresh strawberries, sliced

Orange zest

Divide sliced strawberries among 4 dessert glasses and top with orange zest.

Place egg yolks, sugar and Marsala in a double boiler or in a bowl over a pot of simmering water. Using a whisk or an electric hand beater, begin beating the mixture, taking care not to let the water boil. After about 10 minutes, the zabaione will take on a lighter color and will be about triple in volume. Remove from heat and spoon over the strawberries.

Source: Lisa Williams

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