Published May 1, 1999.
Is it possible to streamline this two-hour, six-pot restaurant recipe for home cooks?
Created in the 1970s at New York's famous Le Cirque restaurant to give diners a lighter, more healthful eating experience, pasta primavera is loaded with vegetables and can be delicious. It can also be a lot of work to make. Each green vegetable is to be blanched in its own pot so as to retain its individual character; if the same pot is used for each vegetable, this can take as much as an hour. What's more, once the vegetables are blanched, you're still not even halfway done. You need five more pots: one to cook the vegetables in garlicky olive oil, one to sauté mushrooms, one to make a fresh tomato sauce flavored with basil, one to make a cream sauce with butter and Parmesan, and one to cook the pasta. None of these tasks is difficult, but the timing is complicated and more suited to a professional kitchen, where different cooks can handle different jobs.
We wanted to simplify the cooking process while keeping the fresh vegetable flavors.
We took our cue from the name of the dish, primavera, which means "spring" in Italian, and decided to focus on just four spring/summer vegetables: asparagus, green beans, peas, and zucchini. We found that it was actually fine to blanch them together, they just had to be put into the pot at different times to make sure each cooked properly. We also realized that we could reuse that same pot (without washing) to cook the tomatoes and mushrooms. Another staple of primavera, its cream sauce, is usually cooked separately from the mushroom and tomato sauce; again we found that we could simplify things, eliminating yet another cooking pan, by adding the cream to the mushrooms and tomatoes.list of recipes