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My mom (the famous LuLu) had been planning on visiting for a girl’s weekend for about a month. At the very inception of these plans, my aunt said, “Let’s make pasta primavera.” I had heard of it, but couldn’t remember ever having it. The “retro” recipe is long and laborious, but so worth it. Now that I know our personal family history of it, I can’t wait to make it again.

Classic Pasta Primavera

As the days drew closer to my mom’s visit, I started asking more about the dish. She said, “Grammy started making it around the time we were in college. It was something we would eat in the spring or summer.” She then told me I could find the recipe in a New York Times article if I googled it. I didn’t realize Pasta Primavera was such a huge deal back in the day.  No surprise though, that Grammy was on the cutting edge of what to cook, long before Food Network, Pinterest, or blogs. It made me smile.

almost ready to eat...

Don't forget the parmesan cheese!

So, mid-afternoon on a Saturday after pedicures, the three of us girls started making the dish. We found parts of the New York Times Recipe to be a bit unclear, but hey, Ina can’t write every recipe out there.

Blanching the cooked broccoli

We blanched a lot of vegetables, all separately.

More blanched veggies. After the initial rinse, we started adding them all to bowls with ice cubes to keep them cold.

Fresh Cubed Tomatoes

cooked mushrooms with parsley, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper.

After blanching, the veggies go back on the stove.

Though delicious and worth every step, this is not a recipe you want to make if you don’t have many pots or pans, or don’t feel like doing a ton of dishes later. Wait, scratch that. Go out and buy more pots and pans, and make someone who loves you do the dishes. Problem solved!

See, tons of pots and pans. But how good does this all look?

We made a double recipe, so we had a little trouble fitting all the veggies into one pan.

The final touch before serving - toasted pine nuts. drooling.

When we finally sat down to eat, I was so happy. Surrounded by some of the people I love the most, with a plate of pasta you can feel good about eating. Pasta Primavera was more than a trendy dish made decades ago, but clearly brought back fond memories of Grammy for my mom and aunt. They said it tasted just like they remembered it. They wondered how she did it all by herself, never complaining or asking for help. It may have took the three of us to make it, but Grammy would have been proud.

The last few bites...

Recipe

Pasta Primavera

  • 1 bunch broccoli
  • 2 small zucchini, unpeeled
  • 4 asparagus spears
  • 1 1/2 cups green beans
  • Salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 3/4 cup fresh or frozen pea pods
  • 1 tablespoon peanut, vegetable or corn oil
  • 2 cups thinly sliced mushrooms
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon minced hot red or green chili, or 1/2 teaspoon dried red-pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 3 cups 1-inch tomato cubes
  • 6 basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, approximately
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts.

1. Trim broccoli and break into florets. Trim off ends of the zucchini. Cut into quarters, then cut into 1-inch or slightly longer lengths (about 1 1/2 cups). Cut each asparagus into 2-inch pieces. Trim beans and cut into 1-inch pieces.

2. Cook each of the green vegetables separately in boiling salted water to cover until crisp but tender. Drain well, then run under cold water to chill, and drain again thoroughly. Combine the cooked vegetables in a bowl.

3. Cook the peas and pods; about 1 minute if fresh; 30 seconds if frozen. Drain, chill with cold water and drain again. Combine with the vegetables.

4. In a skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil and add the mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook about 2 minutes, shaking the skillet and stirring. Add the chili and parsley. Stir, add the mixture to the vegetables.

5. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a saucepan and add half the garlic. Add the tomatoes, salt and pepper. Cook about 4 minutes. Add the basil.

6. In a separate pan, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet and add the remaining garlic and the vegetable mixture. Cook, stirring gently, until heated through.

7. Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water until almost (but not quite) tender, retaining a slight resilience in the center. Drain well.

8. In a pot large enough to hold the spaghetti and vegetables, add the butter and melt over medium-low heat. Then add the chicken broth and half a cup each of cream and cheese, stirring constantly. Cook gently until smooth. Add the spaghetti and toss quickly to blend. Add half the vegetables and pour in the liquid from the tomatoes, tossing over very low heat.

9. Add the remaining vegetables. If the sauce seems dry, add 3 to 4 tablespoons more cream. Add the pine nuts and give the mixture a final tossing.

10. Serve equal portions of the spaghetti mixture in hot soup or spaghetti bowls. Spoon equal amounts of the tomatoes over each serving. Serve immediately.

Serves 4 as a main course; 6 to 8 as an appetizer.

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