Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Pasta Prima Donna

Spaghetti Alla Primavera

Whenever we eat out at/ take way from the local La Porchetta pasta/pizza place, the order is unvarying.

Although they have a reasonable vegetarian variety, we order the same dishes each time and even have the same instructions for the chef each time.

My youngest and her father will have fettuccine in a creamy mushroom sauce. Their order is straightforward.  The only qualifier may be the size- entrée or main course.

My oldest and I invariably have spaghetti in a napolitana sauce, with extra/more vegetables and less pasta, lots of garlic and chilli, no parmesan and could you please make sure there is no contamination of any meat or chicken, because we are vegetarians for religious reasons- you see, and the last time we discovered small shred of chicken in the pasta….so…

At this point the girls roll their eyes…

Then I decide to try and combine all the elements of these quirks and quips. It also happens so, that my husband - who has recently taken to watching cookery shows on TV while on the treadmill- watches this recipe of spaghetti in a primavera sauce with lots of fresh vegetables…  we interrupt him and rag him that even watching these shows actually makes him put on weight…

To come back to the dish, I decide to extract all our favourite elements – the pasta has to be spaghetti, the sauce has to be creamy and buttery without being mushroomy. Loads of fresh and crunchy spring vegetables are added to grace the dish and lots of garlic, herbs and heat to make it a hit!

Voila! We have arrived at this perfect Pasta Primadonna!

Spaghetti Alla Primavera


1 cup broccoli florets
1 cup cauliflower
3-4 spears asparagus, woody stem removed and sliced diagonally
½ cup peas
1 carrot, julienned 
½ cup flat beans, sliced diagonally 
½ cup button mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
½ cup sliced leek (white or green parts)
4 tbsp olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
4 plum tomatoes, quartered
500 gms spaghetti
1cup Philadelphia cooking cream
1cup milk
½ cup vegetable stock
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp oregano or basil
Salt and freshly milled black pepper to taste
Black olives to garnish


Heat 2 tbsp of the olive oil in a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Sauté the leek, beans, asparagus, cauliflower and broccoli one after the other for a few minutes. Then add peas and some of the garlic, some oregano and salt and pepper to taste, sauté for 1 minute, then transfer to a bowl.

Wipe the same pan clean. Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in the pan over medium-high heat and sauté mushrooms until golden brown, 2–3 minutes. Add the carrots and some of the garlic, oregano and salt to taste, sauté for 30 seconds, then transfer to another small bowl.

Again, wipe the pan clean. Heat the remaining 1 tbsp of the oil in the pan over medium-high heat, quartered tomatoes, remaining garlic, oregano and salt to taste, and cook over high heat, without stirring much so that the tomatoes get pan grilled. Set aside.

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water over high heat until just cooked through, 10–12 minutes. Keep about one cup of the water in which you have boiled the pasta. This tastes very brawny when added to the cream and adds substance and flavour to the sauce, but make sure to factor in the salt when you finally season the sauce.

Meanwhile, wipe the pan again and add the cooking cream. Heat over medium heat and then add the milk. Keep aside half of this cream mixture and then add the drained pasta to the pan with cream and cook, stirring often, until pasta absorbs sauce. This will take about 2–3 minutes.

Add the remaining cream mixture, water from in which the pasta has been boiled, stock and butter, and stir constantly until sauce thickens, 1–2 minutes.

Divide the pasta among bowls. Dividing quantities equally, top pasta with all the sautéed vegetables and top it with the grilled tomatoes and black olives. Finish with some freshly milled black pepper.

Serve immediately.


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