Monday, May 6, 2013

Pasta Primavera

Who cares about your cheap fork, bent out of shape, when the dish it's spearing is fresh and herby and cooked in one pot in twenty minutes, and includes the year's first asparagus?

This is Pasta Primavera, a Lovesmiths standard, a recipe included in the handmade cookbook I assembled twelve years ago for my husband during a hectic period when I was working full-time during the day and playing in a couple of bands at night, and couldn't manage to always make dinner for the family. It was called "The Man's Cookbook" and I wish I could find it, but it has moved across the ocean a couple of times and I don't know if it fell off a boat or dropped into a corner, but I haven't been able to dig it up.

Fortunately, I couldn't forget this easy recipe. I especially love the technique of parboiling the vegetables, scooping them out, and then using the vegetable cooking water for the pasta. I also love how infinitely versatile it is - you can use any vegetable, any kind of pasta, and any bean - or skip the beans and add cubes of tofu or cheese, especially if your son insists bitterly that you put chickpeas in absolutely every every everything.

It was easy to teach Henry how to make Pasta Primavera since he has loitered around the kitchen many times while it was being made, and has eaten countless versions over the years. He just seemed to know the process instinctively. I will definitely ask him to make this on his own sometime this spring. It'll be sans chickpeas, I'm guessing.

Pasta Primavera
Serves 6-8

1 lb asparagus, hard ends snapped off, cut into 1-2-inch lengths
1 lb broccoli, cut into small florets
2 large carrots, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-2-inch lengths
2 stalks celery, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-2-inch lengths
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
4 cloves of garlic, minced very finely
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons dried basil, thyme, or oregano, or blend of any combination (or double that amount of fresh herbs)
1/2 lb mushrooms, sliced. (optional)
1 can, drained, of chickpeas or any kind of white bean, or cubed tofu or cheese.
1 lb pasta
Handful of parsley, minced

Put a large pot of water up to boil. While it's coming to a boil, make the vinaigrette:
Whisk together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, garlic, salt, and herbs in a medium, non-metallic bowl until combined and emulsified. Add chickpeas/beans/tofu/cheese (and optional mushrooms) to marinate.

When water comes to a boil, add a pinch of salt and asparagus, broccoli, carrots and celery. Cook 2 minutes (don't go over), then scoop out into a strainer and rinse with cold water. Set aside.

Add additional water to pot if necessary to bring it to approximately 3/4 full, return to boil, and add pasta. Cook according to package directions and drain well.

In a large bowl, combine pasta, vinaigrette and marinated protein and mushrooms, and cooked veggies. Stir gently but thoroughly to combine. Garnish with parsley.