We long ago stopped ordering this spring classic in restaurants because too often it meant a blend of tough and mushy ill-matched vegetables covered with gummy goo.
Actually, we’d forgotten all about it until the New York Times Sunday Magazine ran a piece on the dish, complete with a newfangled update. The updated version was rife with the sort of make-work flourishes that make us grumpy, so we stuck with the classic, and we were glad we did.
The resulting mixture of fresh spring flavors and delicate textures was a delight, and we can’t wait to make it again. This is a seasonal dish in which you start with a base of nonseasonal vegetables—onion, carrot, garlic—then add whatever fresh veggies are at the market.
It’s easy and relatively quick.
Normally, it’s made with fettuccine, but we substituted mini penne and liked that better. The delicate size of the pasta worked well with the small pieces of vegetable.
1 pound mini penne
1 broccoli crown, cut into small florets
1 lb. green beans (or asparagus), cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths
2 T. olive oil
3 T. butter
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 to 4 cloves garlic, sliced
Half of an Italian (not hot) pepper, cut into strips, then 1 1/2-inch pieces (optional)
2 scallions, sliced crosswise into 1/8-inch lengths (if you omit scallions, make sure your onion is large)
1 tomato, diced (or half of a 15 oz. can, drained)
1 cup cream
½ cup grated fresh parmesan cheese
large handful basil leaves (or 1 T. dried)
1. Bring six quarts of water to a boil with 2 tablespoons salt.
2. Drop the broccoli and beans into the boiling water for 1 or 2 minutes to blanch. Remove and run under cold water to stop the cooking. Set aside.
3. Bring the water back to a boil. Add mini penne and cook until al dente, about nine minutes.
4. In a large pan, heat olive Oil and butter. Add onion, carrot, garlic, and pepper. Saute until tender, about five minutes.
5. Add blanched broccoli, green beans or asparagus, scallions, and tomato. Saute until tender.
6. Add cream, and let the sauce simmer until pasta is ready.
7. Add drained pasta, basil, cheese to the pan, then salt and pepper to taste. Toss and serve hot.
This dish would be great with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc, an oaky Chardonnary, or a light-to-medium-bodied red. We enjoyed it with an inexpensive Spanish wine that blended Merlot, Cabernet, and Tempranillo.