Recipe of the week: Pasta primavera: A ’70s innovation worth rediscovering
At Le Cirque, the restaurant he founded in 1974, Sirio Maccioni prepared this primavera tableside.
Don’t look to an Italian grandmother for an old-world pasta primavera, said Peter Meehan in Lucky Peach. The precise origins of the dish are disputed, but no one denies that the now ubiquitous vegetable medley took flight in the 1970s when New York restaurateur Sirio Maccioni began serving it as an off-menu selection at “one of the most fashionable restaurants” in the world.
Maccioni says he invented the dish while traveling with friends, including New York Times food writer Craig Claiborne. Back at Le Cirque, the restaurant he founded in 1974, Maccioni prepared his primavera tableside, and “it’s not hard to imagine” what a show it was. Prep work is required in this close facsimile of Maccioni’s original dish, but it comes together impressively.
Recipe of the weekPasta primavera For tomato concassé:1½ cups plum tomatoes2 tbsp olive oil1 tsp minced garlic
Score a small X on bottom of tomatoes and drop them into a pot of simmering water for 20 seconds. Remove and plunge them in an ice bath. Peel, remove seeds, and cut into a medium dice. Heat oil in sauté pan over high heat. Add tomatoes, garlic, and pinch of salt. Cook until tomatoes have rendered most of their juice and gained color, about 10 minutes. Set aside and keep warm.
For vegetables primavera:4 tbsp olive oil2 cups chopped mushrooms3 cloves garlic, minced 1 cup broccoli florets1 cup asparagus tips1 medium zucchini cut in 1-inch strips½ cup frozen peas
While bringing a pot of water to boil, heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in sauté pan over high heat. Add mushrooms, half the garlic, and pinch of salt. Toss to coat mushrooms. Moderate heat and sauté until mushrooms have given off most of their water and are nicely browned, about 8 minutes. Set aside and keep warm. Salt boiling water generously. Blanch broccoli, asparagus, and zucchini for 3 minutes, then add peas. After a half-minute, strain veggies and plunge into an ice bath. Heat remaining oil over medium heat in sauté pan, add remaining garlic, and cook vegetables until they gain a little color and are still crunchy. Set aside and keep warm.
Putting it all together: 1 lb dry spaghetti1 cup heavy cream2 tbsp butter2⁄³ cup grated Parmesan½ cup pine nuts, lightly toasted2 tbsp basil, cut into a chiffonade
Bring a large pot of water to boil, salt well, and add pasta. In a wide pan over medium heat, reduce the cream by half; add butter, Parmesan, and salt to taste. Drop heat to low. When pasta is a minute shy of cooked, strain and add to cream to finish cooking.
Transfer pasta and sauce to a warmed bowl and bring to the table, with remaining ingredients in separate bowls. Toss pasta with vegetables (including mushrooms), and divide onto plates. Garnish with pine nuts, 2 spoonfuls of tomato, and a pinch of basil. Add Parmesan, salt, and pepper to taste. Serves 5 to 6.