Sunday, July 12, 2009

Pasta primavera

When I was buying my supplies for last Friday night's pasta primavera, the clerk asked what I was going to cook and I said pasta primavera and he said, "I've never had that," and looked at me with big puppy dog eyes. I assumed he wasn't actually flirting with me, and I replied, "Well, it's just pasta in a light olive oil-based sauce tossed with vegetables," and he said a little sadly, "Oh, I guess I have had that."

One of the first things I learned to cook after I met Don was a pasta primavera dish from a Better Homes & Gardens cookbook. It was basically a stir-fry of carrots, broccoli, onion, and pea pods, in butter and white wine. I took to cooking quickly and really enjoyed it, but I've always been someone who has to stick to a recipe; I'm not very adventurous. Even dishes I've been making the same way at least twice a month for 15 years now (like hamburger stroganoff or pork chops in mustard cream sauce or sloppy joes) I still make with the printed recipe in front of me.

But slowly, I've been allowing myself to improvise a bit here and there. I found a pasta primavera recipe in a book called Cook Yourself Thin. That's never going to happen in this house, but I thought I'd give this one a shot. It calls for a pound of asparagus (bottoms snapped off--remind me to tell you sometime about the first time I cooked asparagus and threw away the tips, thinking they looked too feathery to eat) cooked up for a few minutes in chicken stock, then set aside. Then you stir-fry mushrooms and onion in olive oil and garlic, add peas and more chicken stock, throw the asparagus back in, and toss it with pasta (in this case, rotini).

That didn't sound like quite enough food to me, so I added some yellow bell pepper strips, chopped plum tomatoes, and celery slices, and threw some white wine into the stock (some yucky Pacific Rim Riesling that I was trying to get rid of). At the end, the recipe called for baby spinach to be added; I normally would have left that out, but I happened to have half a bag of spinach left over from a salad a few nights ago, so in it went.

I'm happy to report that my semi-improvised recipe was liked by all (that is, Don & I), and was made even better with a glass of Caldoni Pinot Grigo, which I picked because the bottle was cool, and some multigrain Tuscany bread. I forgot to take a picture of the food, but you'll find the cool wine bottle pictured. A very nice, light summer dish, and even better, the leftovers made a great cold pasta salad the next day!

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