The Practical Primavera

Once touted as “America’s grandest contribution to the pasta repertoire”, pasta primavera was invented in New York at Le Cirque in 1977, and according to the ineffable Craig Claiborne soon became “by far the most talked-about dish in Manhattan”. The dish remained popular throughout the Eighties and today is almost cliché, but for all its snooty pedigree is still a good standard for the home kitchen.

A simple dish, primavera is pasta with spring vegetables from the kitchen and garden along with what’s fresh in the market, all cooked with a cream reduction. A reduction simply means that you simmer the cream until thickened to a consistency that will coat the pasta and vegetables as in an alfredo, and quite frankly a primavera is little more than an alfredo with vegetables. Most often a dry hard cheese such as Parmesan or Romano is grated into the cream for added flavor and a heavier consistency. You’ll have to blanch most non-leafy vegetables beforehand, and while some people will advise you to assess vegetable ingredients before making a decision about the type of pasta you should use. I can’t begin to express how over the top this is, and thankfully spaghetti noodles are the norm.

Sauté cooked pasta and blanched vegetables along with a bit of minced garlic and scallions in enough butter to coat, seasoning lightly with salt and pepper, then add heavy cream along with a light sprinkling of your choice of cheese. Simmer until cream begins to thicken, adding enough to coat both vegetables and pasta. It helps if you’re practiced in tossing the mixture, but a spoon or (better yet) tongs work in a pinch. I used fresh spinach, tender young summer squash, carrots, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and angel hair pasta.

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