Linguine Primavera

In Recipe by Sean9 Comments

Linguine Primavera

One of the greatest challenges, and greatest rewards, comes from cooking simple food perfectly. It’s all too easy to look at a something like a bowl of pasta and say to yourself “well, that’s no big deal – I could whip that up in a second.” When we see complicated cuisine, or the typically ‘elevated’ food styles that are so common in high end restaurants, we pick apart the complexities and appreciate them for the artistry and skill involved in them. Rightly so – chefs work long and hard to master a wide range of cooking techniques, many of which require quite a bit of practice and care. But simple foods can be both revealing and incredibly important, precisely because they have nothing to hide behind.

You could throw this together any time, any day of the year. Frozen peas, canned fava beans, asparagus imported from wherever it’s spring, tossed with some pasta. Heck, take that, drown it in a cream sauce (aka the Crappy Pasta Restaurant cure-all) and you’ve got something you can charge 12.99 for. Now before I come across as an elitist; I’m all in favour of cheap food and I have no problem at all with non-traditional meals* (see my note below about where this dish actually comes from) but when it comes to pasta and Italian food, I seriously don’t get why we do this to ourselves. Using mediocre ingredients and tons of added fat is not just lazy – it’s embracing mediocrity. This is not a difficult dish to make, and when you put some thought and care into it, it’s exquisite. I’m not exaggerating here – this is one of the most delicious and exceptional pastas dishes that you can make. But in order for it to be that good, you have to respect two very closely related things: the season, and the ingredients.

Pasta primavera is supposed to be an incredibly seasonal celebration of spring produce – the entire thing revolves around the taste of the freshest, most tender spring greens.  The greens themselves can vary a little, but a combination of peas, fava beans, and asparagus is pretty classic (I say classic, but this is actually a fairly young dish – more on that later).  Now if you haven’t tasted freshly-shelled peas before then you need to remedy that immediately.  If you have tasted them, you know what I mean when I say there’s a big difference between fresh and frozen.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with frozen peas.  I use them all the time in fact.  Likewise, canned fava beans can be great.  But you want this to taste like the best, the freshest, the most perfect and ephemeral of foods.  These foods don’t last long.  If you are lucky enough to have a bounty of spring peas (etc.), eat as many as you can and freeze the rest to enjoy later – but eat this now.

Now, to turn the page back a little and discuss that old nugget about ‘simple’ food.  Is this dish simple?  I’d say so, but with a sizable caveat.  The flavours are layered and complex but this is not a difficult dish to make by a long shot.  But it’s not quick either – this is one of those dishes where the term “labour of love” springs to mind.  I served this to my family, and let me tell you there’s love in every last bite.  My wife shelled the peas with our four-year-old, and we picked the best looking fava beans to photograph together.  The fava beans – well, they’re probably nature’s most ridiculously wasteful packaging.  They’re like the blister packaging of the food world.  You’ve got to peel them out of their monstrous pod, then blanch the pale green beans inside, then peel the fava bean out of its pale and waxy jacket.  You don’t exactly get a lot of beans in the end, and the amount of time you spend doing it will make you consider hiring a prep-cook.  The asparagus is quick to prepare, but even it’s extraordinary when you think about it – a plant that we have to let grow for an entire year before it can pop up again to be picked at exactly the right moment (it can become overgrown if picked even a day late).  This food takes time.  It takes thought.  It does not take great skill, but it does demand care.  Brought together with a simple parsley soffritto, olive oil, cheese, and some pepper, this isn’t any old pasta dish, and it definitely isnt a token vegetarian pasta meant to flesh out a menu.  It’s a celebration of spring, family, and life.

* As a side note, this dish is part of April’s theme about spring dishes from around the world, and this is something of an odd one. It’s an Italian-Canadian-American hybrid. The original pasta primavera was invented in… Nova Scotia. Now, Canada is my home and native land, and I love it, but we are a bit quick to try and claim ANYTHING with a Canadian connection (like the telephone), so let me clarify a little further. The dish was apparently first made by chef Sirio Maccione’s wife while they were visiting the Nova Scotia summer home of an Italian count. From there, Maccione took it back to famed restaurant Le Cirque (a French restaurant he co-owned), and the dish became famous in Manhattan, and eventually the world. So there you go. Italian Canadian American.

Recipe Notes

This is one of those meals where you want to make sure you really know what you’re doing before you get started. No one aspect is particularly challenging, but you need to make sure you leave time to prepare the ingredients (especially the fava beans), and to bring everything together at the right time.

You may have noticed that this recipe is devoid of any cream.  You could certainly add a little heavy cream to finish the sauce if you wanted, but I personally find it unnecessary.  The lightness of the vegetables works really well with olive oil and, while cream is certainly tasty and unctuous, I feel that it disguises the quality of the starting ingredients (plus it adds a lot of fat and calories).  That being said, the cheese is a must – it adds the richness, salt, and savoury depth.

A few notes about the spring vegetables:

Asparagus – I’ve indicated that you should only use the tips (the last 5 cm/2 inches or so) of the asparagus spears as they’re the most tender – sort of a special treat. You can keep the stalks for another dish. If you’ve got very tender or slim asparagus, you could use the whole stalk instead, but you’ll want to make sure to only use about 1/3 of a bunch.

Peas – You’ll need about 500-550g (a little over 1 lb) of fresh, un-shelled English peas in order to obtain 150 g (1.5 cup) of shelled peas.  If you can’t find fresh peas in the shell, you could consider frozen peas, but only if they’re of incredible quality.  Don’t use the sad, wrinkly ones that have been sitting in your freezer waiting to nurse bruised shins.

Fava Beans – You’ll need about 700 g (about 1.5 lbs) of fresh, unshelled Fava beans in order to obtain 100 g (1 cup) of shelled beans (yes, really).  Fava beans are kind of funny really – they have to be shelled twice after all.  But the outer portions are, oddly enough, actually edible.  Food 52 has a great recipe and write up detailing a technique to grill whole fava beans here – if you decide to try it with your leftover pods, let me know!


Nutrition Facts
Linguine Primavera
Amount Per Serving
Calories 258 Calories from Fat 171
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 19g 29%
Saturated Fat 6g 30%
Polyunsaturated Fat 2g
Monounsaturated Fat 11g
Cholesterol 15mg 5%
Sodium 200mg 8%
Potassium 338mg 10%
Total Carbohydrates 16g 5%
Dietary Fiber 5g 20%
Sugars 5g
Protein 8g 16%
Vitamin A 18%
Vitamin C 22%
Calcium 12%
Iron 10%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Nutritional Summary

GOOD NEWS:
The omission of cream and the lack of any fatty meats makes this extremely healthy, especially for a pasta dish. Even with a healthy amount of added cheese, this comes out a winner.

BAD NEWS:
Because the pasta-to-veggie ratio still favours the carbs, this isn’t overly nutrient-dense. Serve with a great salad, or a veggie-based side to balance things out.

Ingredient Pages

No ingredient pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe.  Like to see one?  Let me know in the comments below or by email.

Pantry Pages

No pantry pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe.  Like to see one?  Let me know in the comments below or by email.

  • Vegetarian

Recent Italian Recipes

Sort By Rand
  • San Diego Mussel and Clam Linguine with coconut milk and squash blossoms - Diversivore.com
    San Diego Mussel & Clam Linguine
    If there's one thing I like less than having to categorize all my recipes, it's being unable to come up with a category altogether. Sure, it's pasta, but...
  • Roasted Radishes with Pistachio and Radish Green Pesto - Diversivore.com
    Roasted Radishes with Pistachio & Radish Green Pesto
    True Italian pesto is typically made with pecorino sardo cheese, but this can be very difficult to find and/or prohibitively expensive. Pecorino romano is easier to find and...
  • Black Mission Figs with Whisky Caramel and Ricotta - Diversivore.com
    Mission Figs with Whisky Caramel and Ricotta
    Figs, scratch-made caramel with whisky, and simple, rustic ricotta make this an easy but memorable dessert. It's one of those great desserts that manages to memorably and uniquely...
  • Sausage and Eggplant Bucatini with Fennel Tomato Sauce - Diversivore.com
    Sausage and Eggplant Bucatini with Fennel Tomato Sauce
    Italian-American comfort food, done without any of the shortcuts or questionable ingredients that plague many pasta meals. I talk about scratch cooking and simple ingredients a lot, but what...
  • Fettucce with green tomatoes, bacon, and prawns - Diversivore.com
    Fettuccine with Green Tomatoes, Bacon, and Prawns
    The red, ripe tomato is such a thing of beauty that we often forget that it is not the only way that one can eat a tomato. Green...
  • Spot Prawns in a spicy tomato sauce with mascarpone and nero di seppia (cuttlefish ink) pasta - Diversivore.com
    Spot Prawns in a Saffron Tomato Sauce with Mascarpone and Nero di Seppia Pasta
    This recipe has everything you'd expect from a high-end restaurant-quality pasta dish, especially when it comes to the focus on seasonal and/or high-end, high-quality ingredients. And while this...
  • Linguine Primavera - pasta with spring vegetables (fava beans, peas, and asparagus tips) - Diversivore.com
    Linguine Primavera
    Primavera is Italian for spring, and this modern classic (actually an Italian-American/Canadian hybrid) SCREAMS spring. That is, when it's done well. Sadly it's become something of a...
  • Chickpea and Gai Lan Spaghettini - Diversivore.com
    Chickpea and Gai Lan Spaghettini
    Asian green vegetables can be a lot more versatile than a lot of people realize. In this case, gai lan works seamlessly with a number of vegetarian Italian...
  • Watermelon and Ahi Tuna crudo - Diversivore.com
    Watermelon and Tuna Crudo
    Crudo is Italian for raw, and that's appropriate in so many ways here. Yes, the fish itself is raw, but the word applies equally (in my opinion) to...
  • Scallops and Asparagus with Lemon Spaghettini - Diversivore.com
    Scallops and Asparagus with Lemon Spaghettini
    Perfectly seared scallops are one of life's greatest seafood delights. The sweet taste, the rich browned butter, the sublime texture - the only problem with them is that...
  • Japanese lemon herb risotto, made with sake in place of white wine and short grain Japanese rice -DJapanese lemon herb risotto, made with sake in place of white wine and short grain Japanese rice - Diversivore.com
    Japanese Lemon Herb Risotto
    Sometimes culinary worlds cross more easily than you'd imagine. A few simple Japanese twists plus bright taste of lemon, and you get this unforgettable dish.

Share this Recipe

Linguine Primavera - pasta with spring vegetables (fava beans, peas, and asparagus tips) - Diversivore.com
Linguine Primavera
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Votes: 0
Rating: 0
You:
Rate this recipe!
Servings Prep Time
4 people 1 hour
Cook Time
20 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 people 1 hour
Cook Time
20 minutes
Linguine Primavera - pasta with spring vegetables (fava beans, peas, and asparagus tips) - Diversivore.com
Linguine Primavera
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Votes: 0
Rating: 0
You:
Rate this recipe!
Servings Prep Time
4 people 1 hour
Cook Time
20 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 people 1 hour
Cook Time
20 minutes
Ingredients
Servings: people
Units:
Instructions
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a gentle boil. Meanwhile, shell the peas and the fava beans and set them aside separately. Once the water is boiling, add the fava beans and boil for 2 minutes. Drain and rinse with cool water, then remove the pale green envelope surrounding each fava bean. Set the finished beans aside.
  2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook the linguine until al dente then drain and set aside. Keep a cup or so of the pasta water to add to your sauce.
  3. To make the soffritto, heat two tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a large frying pan. Add the onion and saute gently for about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and parsley and continue to saute until the onions are soft and slightly coloured and the parsley is dark; about 10-15 minutes. If your pan is starting to look to dry and the onions are getting too much direct heat, add a splash of olive oil and reduce the heat a little. Don't try to rush the soffritto, as you'll end up burning the onions and garlic and ruining the flavour.
  4. Add peas and asparagus to the soffritto and saute 3-4 minutes. Add fava beans, saute an additional 2 minutes. Add splash of pasta water to keep the sauce loose and moist.
  5. Combine pasta and sauce, add in the tomatoes to the hot pasta and let them stand for a minute or two to soften and cook slightly. Serve, garnished with plenty of freshly ground black pepper and reggiano-parmigiano cheese.
Recipe Notes

Asparagus - I've indicated that you should only use the tips (the last 5 cm/2 inches or so) of the asparagus spears as they're the most tender - sort of a special treat.  You can keep the stalks for another dish.  If you've got very tender or slim asparagus, you could use the whole stalk instead, but you'll want to make sure to only use about 1/3 of a bunch.

Peas - You'll need about 500-550g (a little over 1 lb) of fresh, un-shelled English peas in order to obtain 150 g (1.5 cup) of shelled peas.

Fava Beans - You'll need about 700 g (about 1.5 lbs) of fresh, un-shelled Fava beans in order to obtain 100 g (1 cup) of shelled beans (yes, really).

Powered byWP Ultimate Recipe
text copyright www.diversivore.com

Comments

  1. Sean, thank you so much for making such a good looking pasta dish respecting tradition. For reminding people that simple is good and the freshness and quality of ingredients are determining factors and that love and care in the preparation will do the rest. And you even wrote soffritto right with 2 f and 2 t, commandable! Too many times I have seen a “so called italian” pasta dish done improperly. That is not the case, and even if I don’t know linguine primavera, I love this recipe.

    1. Author

      Thank you so much! I’m not Italian, but I put a LOT of heart and thought into my Italian food (well, all my food really), and it’s nice to know when you’ve impressed the right people. I do agree with you – there’s nothing inherently wrong with Italian fusion or Italian American food, but so often it seems haphazardly slapped together, or forced to rely on fat and salt. Again, thanks so much for your incredibly kind words.

  2. You pretty much nailed one of the reasons that I’ve been staying away from pasta for the better part of the last decade…total mediocrity! The other reason is that I don’t digest it very well but I’m experimenting with handmade pasta vs. extruded and I think it’s better (I wish there was a way to do a blind study on myself). Anyway…a few years ago we went to Italy, where I gained a whole new appreciation for it. I’m slowly starting to explore. Just picked up flour + water from the library and it looks really interesting and is all about honouring seasonal ingredients. Your primavera looks delicious!

    1. Author

      I’m glad it resonated with you Sofia. I completely understand what you’re saying – the easiness of pasta has made it a go-to for some pretty blah food, and that’s a shame. It can be so wonderful – a vessel for complex and delicious flavours (while still remaining simple). I wish you well in your digestive explorations 🙂

  3. “Using mediocre ingredients and tons of added fat is not just lazy – it’s embracing mediocrity” <— BOOM. Yes. That is a fantastic statement and it is SO true.

    And this "I served this to my family, and let me tell you there’s love in every last bite. My wife shelled the peas with our four-year-old, and we picked the best looking fava beans to photograph together" just made me "Awwww" pretty hard.

    Great post, Sean. And, as I've already said many times in our conversations, stunning presentation. This dish is gorgeous in all of it's simplicity.

    1. Author

      Dana, I love pasta so much, but I’m dead serious about the trouble with mediocrity. I mean, it’s just so easy to make pasta poorly – but when it’s drowned in cream and served in a bottomless bowl, suddenly it’s ‘hearty’ and ‘satisfying.’ It’s ridiculous, and frankly dangerous to eat like that.

      I’m also glad you liked my little vignette into our family-cooking-life. It’s nice when you feel like your life and your blog work in harmony (because sometimes, that’s not exactly the case!).

  4. Yesss! and I agree with what Nicoletta and Dana said too. Freshness of the ingredients is so important. Dishes can taste out of this world when the produce used are local and in-season! This dish makes me crave spring/early summer big time! Things to look forward to.

  5. Simple and well done just like Italians would! This dish looks fresh and pack with flavours! I know now what to make for dinner for the first day of “primavera”;)

  6. Fresh, quality ingredients should always be the stars of the dish, and and a simple dish like this really makes them shine. I really like the minimal seasoning, for that reason, too. Great job!

Leave a Comment