Thursday, July 12, 2012

Pretty, Pretty Pasta Primavera

Hello loves! Once again my apologies for being a phantom around the
blogoshpere. My bosses were sweet enough to surprise me with a 5-day holiday weekend over the 4th. So naturally, I booked it out to Montauk for some sun, R&R, and culinary inspiration. In true Danielle fashion, 1/2 through my stay, I sprained my ankle & pretty much killed any plans other than roasting on the beach & moving around as little as possible.

Good thing I'm feeling MUCH better & have whipped up yet another childhood favorite of mine, tweaked ever so slightly. This week's re-creation is my mom's Pasta Primavera. The word Primavera is Italian for "Spring". Italians are in love with life & all the natural beauty and pleasure it may bring our way. Famed Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli expressed his love of nature's beauty in his renowned masterpiece entitled, "Primavera". Naturally, an homage to the season of "new life" from these amorous people in the form of food seems perfectly fitting. 

There are as many variations of this dish as there are spring days in a lifetime. 
However, in keeping with the dish's namesake, each variation usually includes a combination of fresh vegetables. My mom made hers with farfalle pasta, yellow zucchini, mushrooms, snow peas, and broccoli florets. She also made this killer pink cream sauce, which was decadent yet unusually light at the same time.  Of course, heavy cream was the notorious player that made this sauce come together.

My version of Pasta Primavera uses whole wheat fusilli pasta, zucchini, baby bella mushrooms, grape tomatoes & my own spin on mommy's salivating pink "cream" sauce. I combine some simple marinara sauce, chicken broth, some low fat soft cheese, and....yep, you guessed it, a spoonful of plain Greek yogurt (non-fat, as always). As with my other recipes, feel free to be creative and use any vegetable combination you like. I have a trick on how to cook the veggies that I will reveal in the recipe directions below. Again, I cannot take credit for this ingenious idea, that all belongs to mamma Carms! You can also use any shaped pasta you are partial to. I highly suggest you stick with whole wheat or spelt pasta, though. I'm a fan of fusilli, not only cuz it looks cool, but the spiral shape holds onto sauce (and therefore, flavor) much better than a smooth, flat pasta. For the sauce the "fresh is best" motto holds true here, as in most of my recipes. Although, I totally cheated & used some of  my Nonna's sauce. If you must, used a good jarred marinara or, just open up a can of crushed tomatoes & flavor it with some salt, pepper, dried oregano, garlic & a touch of good extra virgin olive oil.

Dee's Pasta Primavera
Yields 4 servings; 257 Calories/serving; 2.8g Fat/serving

  • 2-Cups (dry) Whole Wheat Fusilli pasta 
  • 2- small zucchini, sliced into 1/4" half-moon shapes
  • 1- 8 oz package Baby Bella mushrooms, sliced 1/4" thick
  • 1-Cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 5-7 basil leaves, torn or cut chiffonade
  • 1-Cup marinara sauce
  • 1/4-Cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2- wedges Laughing Cow Light Swiss (can substitute any soft, melt-able cheese, ex: fat free cream cheese)
  • 1-Tbs plain non-fat Greek yogurt
  • salt & pepper to taste

Boil water for pasta. Once water comes to a boil, liberally salt, add pasta & cook per manufacturer's directions. While pasta is cooking, combine marinara sauce, chicken stock, cheese & yogurt in a small saucepan. Bring to low-medium heat, whisking until sauce is smooth and pink in color (Add more or less chicken stock to reach desired consistency). Add salt and pepper to taste. Right before pasta is ready (about 2-3 minutes before done) add zucchini and mushrooms to pot. Bring back to a boil, then quickly remove from heat & drain. Return back to pot, add sauce and grape tomatoes. Right before serving, finish with fresh basil. 

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