Recipes

The Pasta Primavera You’ve Always Wanted: Lighter, Greener, Springier

The Pasta Primavera You’ve Always Wanted: Lighter, Greener, Springier

by J. KENJI LÓPEZ-ALT 

Pasta Primavera (Pasta With Spring Vegetables)

I find it very hard to imagine that prior to 1975, nobody in the history of the universe had thought to combine fresh spring vegetables and pasta in a creamy sauce, but, if we are to believe Sirio Maccioni, chef of New York’s famed Le Cirque, it’s the truth. At least, nobody famous enough to take a good idea and turn it into an international sensation. Sirio put it on the menu, and pasta primavera—”spring pasta”—quickly became part of our cultural lexicon.

Since then, pasta primavera has become a staple menu item across the spectrum of restaurants, from fancy places using handmade pasta and seasonal spring vegetables to chains that serve it year-round alongside bottomless baskets of breadsticks.

The original Le Cirque version of the dish is a complicated affair, as all fancy restaurant food tends to be. I’ve found two printed versions online. This one was first published in 1977, in a Craig Claiborne article for the New York Times, and presumably it’s how the dish was first introduced to the greater public. In 1991, Florence Fabricant published another version that’s even more complicated, requiring a half dozen different pots and pans to complete. Ah, the old days, back when a newspaper’s idea of “adapting” a restaurant recipe for a home cook was translating the Italian into English.

Both versions contain spring vegetables, along with mushrooms, garlic, tomatoes, basil, cheese, and cream, plus some toasted pine nuts. I made a sort of hybridized version of the Le Cirque dish, and found that I actually wasn’t particularly enamored of it.

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