The Pasta of Springtime Story and Photo
By Marc Bouchard
Fiddlehead Contributing Writer
Pasta primavera, or springtime pasta, was once the hottest dish in the America. It consisted of a mélange of garden vegetables tossed with pasta in a cream sauce.
Made famous at New York’s Le Cirque (see sidebar) in the 1970s and 1980s it was everywhere. Then, suddenly, as the interest in more authentic Italian regional cooking became a tidal wave, it disappeared.
What happened? New York Times’ writer Amanda Hesser summed it up perfectly: “Meant to be an expression of spring, the mad jumble of vegetables over pasta was mostly an expression of the death match between French and Italian cuisine (cream versus olive oil, sauce versus pasta).”
Cream sauces, like the one in the original recipe for primavera, were old-school. Not to mention heavy and indigestible. Cream was out, olive oil was in.
But the idea of fresh vegetables tossed with pasta is still a great one. So, let’s reinvent pasta primavera to make it fresher, healthier and, as a side bonus, easier to prepare.
To begin with, let’s make this dish as truly seasonal as possible. Skip the supermarket tomatoes imported from Mexico and go with early spring vegetables you might find in your garden, like Swiss chard, sugar snap peas and asparagus.
Visit the perennial herb garden and cut a handful of chives. For extra protein and nutrients, add a couple of locally grown ingredients left over from last fall’s harvest, such as butternut squash and shell beans.
Instead of heavy cream, we’ll use a sauce of olive oil, butter and vegetable stock that will lightly coat the pasta. And we’ll steam the veggies right in the pan, thus retaining their vitamins.
In the end we’ve actually improved on the original. And as the seasons progress, you can substitute whatever veggies appear in your garden or farmer’s market for the ones in the recipe. This isn’t just a recipe for primavera, but a pasta dish for all seasons!