I always think of pasta primavera as an easy spring dish. Ideally you can use the freshest local produce you can find at your farmer's market. Unfortunately, we seem to be having a late spring on the west coast and there just isn't much available at the moment. So I looked around at the colourful ingredients I had at my disposal. Some tiny baby bell peppers. A vibrant carrot. A purple onion. A fragrant bunch of basil. A container of white mushrooms. Lemon juice and zest to add brightness.
I love meals like this because not only is this dish simple to prepare, but it is completely flexible in terms of ingredients. Change it up with a short pasta like rigatoni or bowties. Use lightly steamed broccoli or asparagus. Saute some sugar snap peas, watercress, zucchini or scallions. Add in shrimp or chicken. The possibilities are endless and it pretty much guarantees an easy meal that won't tire you out no matter how often you make it.
I wanted to keep this light but I still wanted a creamy texture, so I added a small amount of light cream cheese. Adding just a bit is key because this isn't a heavy, gloopy sauce we're creating. In fact, the sauce gets some of its body from the pasta cooking water. The pasta leeches out some of its starch so when you add in the cooking water it helps to thicken up the sauce without adding in flour, cornstarch or lots of cheese.
Light & Creamy Pasta Primavera
1/2 package of tagliatelle
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 red onion, sliced thinly
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, julienned
1/2 red pepper, sliced thinly into matchsticks
1/2 yellow pepper, sliced thinly into matchsticks
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
1/4 cup peas, fresh or frozen
2 tablespoons light cream cheese
salt & pepper
1 tablespoons fresh lemon juice + zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced*
grated parmesan cheese
In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook pasta until al dente, according to package instructions. Reserve about 1 cup of cooking liquid before straining.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute the onions and garlic until soft, about 5 minutes. Add in the carrots and peppers and cook for another 5 minutes until tender. Stir in the mushrooms and let those sweat for a couple of minutes.
Add the pasta to the skillet along with 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid. Add in the peas and the cream cheese and toss until everything is combined. If you find the mixture too dry, add in more of the cooking liquid a little at a time. Season with salt and pepper (though remember the pasta water is already salty so taste before you add extra), add in the lemon juice, zest and basil. Toss and serve with grated parmesan cheese.
* The best way to slice basil is to roll up the leaves into a little cigar and start slicing across the width. This is called a chiffonade if you want to get fancy with your cooking terms.