I get really excited when spring creeps up on you in Melbourne. You know that it has happened when the smell of the air changes and it just has a hint of grassy newness and warmth. The days are filled with sunlight and the world seems painted with a palette of green and yellow. I first made this Pasta Primavera on a day such as the above. Seemed to make sense since ‘primavera’ means spring (or literally, ‘first green’) in Italian. I had been to the market and there were new vegies everywhere; the first asparagus of the season, bright yellow squash, vivid green broadbeans and myriad of other delights. The recent sunfilled days we have been enjoying prompted me to make it again.
If you don’t like one of the vegies I have used, swap it for something else or increase the quantity of another. This dish has been slightly different each time I have made it. It all depends on what is freshest and catches my eye. Some of the ingredients below represent the crossover between winter and spring, but made it in anyway! Whatever you end up using you need a good cup of vegies per person. The below should be enough for four people (give or take a big eater).
pasta – I like using spirals for this or some other short pasta
chicken stock (about 1 cup – this will depend on the quantity of vege)
1 small brown onion or red shallot finely chopped
2 rashers of smoky bacon or 3 slices prosciutto finely sliced (this is optional but I think it goes well)
6 Brussels sprouts
4 asparagus spears
2 baby yellow squash each sliced into 8 wedges
12 pods of broadbeans
½ cup shelled peas
1 small leek
6 green beans sliced on the diagonal
¼ cup small cauliflower florets
¼ cup small broccoli florets
1/3 zucchini, sliced on the diagonal then the discs into 4
few leaves of mint
few leaves of basil
lemon zest and cheese to serve
Put the water on to boil for the pasta.
Put another saucepan on and bring it to the boil.
Whilst they are coming up to temperature you need to shell your peas and broadbeans.
Broadbeans are a bit of a bother to cook if you don’t have a fair amount of time because of the double shelling, but they are definitely worth it and as they are only available for a short season, you may as well give it a go whilst you can. The broadbeans and peas only need to be blanched in the boiling water for about 2 minutes. It is a good idea to put them in a bowl of cold water so that they stop cooking and don’t turn horrible and mushy.
Now, if you want to be clever and waterwise, you can lift the beans and peas out with a slotted spoon and re-use the same boiling water to steam the asparagus, green beans, cauliflower and broccoli. First though, to cut up the asparagus first break off the woody ends. If you take one spear and gently bend it, where it snaps naturally is the “right” place to break it. Chop the spears into 2-3 cm pieces. Then steam all of the above for about 3 mins – definitely no longer
Steaming underway you can move to the brussels sprouts. Now I need to say a few words here for this much maligned vegetable. I love them. They do not have to be the horror that you may have fed in your childhood, and in this dish they are great. Cut the stalky end bit off, then shred them or slice them – just like you would with a cabbage if you were preparing coleslaw.
By now your pasta water should be boiling, so put your pasta on to cook.
Stove top on medium, heat a teaspoon of olive oil in your deep frying pan and add the onion, prosciutto, leek and brussels sprouts and sauté them for about 2 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium low and add half the stock, the zucchini, squash, cauliflower and broccoli and cook for another two minutes. Now add the remaining vegies and stock. The vegies should all be almost done but none should be too soft. The stock is to help the cooking but you don’t want too much left at the end – it will steal all the flavour of the vegies.
Drain pasta and add to pan and mix through. If your pan isn’t big enough to do this, serve the pasta into bowls, top each with the vegie mix then one at time put them back in the frypan for a burst of heat and to mix through adding the torn mint and basil.
For serving I like a drizzle of good olive oil, a little bit of lemon zest and some crumbled ricotta. You can also use feta or good old parmesan.
A semillon sauvignon from the Margaret River or a Clare Valley Riesling will finish this off perfectly.