Primavera means spring, but pasta primavera has come to mean a dish that includes pretty much any vegetables you happen to have around, spring, winter, or whatever. It makes a nice change from pasta with tomato sauce, though you can include tomatoes of any kind (sun-dried, fresh, canned, maybe even salsa?) if you want.
According to Wikipedia, there’s some dispute over who exactly first came up with pasta primavera. It started appearing around 1977; the idea is so simple it could very well have occurred to multiple cooks separately.
Frozen vegetables are handy — the mix I used, from Green Giant, even had spices — but if you want to use fresh as they come into season, that’s simple too. With fresh greens like spinach and/or cilantro, cut them into thin strips and line the colander with them before you drain the pasta. The hot water will cook them very lightly as it flows through them. Fresh cherry tomatoes can be cut into small pieces — about four each — and tossed with the hot pasta till they wilt slightly. Also, try shredding raw zucchini, the unseeded part, and tossing it in. For a richer dish, put in a couple of tablespoonfuls of sour cream at the last minute; it shouldn’t be allowed to get too hot.
Canned shrimp could also be used interchangeably, though they don’t usually taste as good as frozen. Fresh would be great, of course. If shrimp are beyond your budget, try tuna — which now comes in flavored versions for cooking — or canned salmon, or imitation crab.
If you’re serving meat as an entrée, leave out the fish and serve this as a side dish. Add a little creamy salad dressing to leftovers, and you’ve got a very nice pasta salad. This is all about variations — and using what you have on hand.
- 1 pound pasta — your choice
- 1 (1-pound) package frozen mixed vegetables (I used broccoli, peppers, and carrots)
- 1 pound cooked peeled shrimp, thawed if frozen
- Parmesan cheese for sprinkling
- Cook the pasta as the package directs.
- When it’s almost ready, steam the vegetables (on the stove or in the microwave) till just tender. This will probably be the shortest cooking time suggested on the package.
- When they are one or two minutes from being done, add the shrimp to heat them.
- When everything is done and the pasta is drained, combine everything in the pot and stir gently to mix.
- Sprinkle with Parmesan when serving.