Spring Vegetable Pasta

From America's Test Kitchen Season 12: Pasta, Please

Why this recipe works:

For a fresh version of a pasta primavera recipe, we used a pair of spring classics—asparagus and green peas—plus other flavor-packed vegetables and aromatics. We found that by sautéing the vegetables in stages in a large Dutch oven, we could ensure that each one maintained its crisp-tender… read more

For a fresh version of a pasta primavera recipe, we used a pair of spring classics—asparagus and green peas—plus other flavor-packed vegetables and aromatics. We found that by sautéing the vegetables in stages in a large Dutch oven, we could ensure that each one maintained its crisp-tender texture while taking on a touch of flavorful browning. Switching from long-stranded spaghetti to small and compact campanelle allowed us to use the risotto method of cooking, which guaranteed that our Spring Vegetable Pasta recipe resulted in tender pasta coated with a light but lustrous, creamy sauce that brought the dish together perfectly.

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Serves 4 to 6

For tips on trimming asparagus, see related tip. Campanelle is our pasta of choice in this dish, but farfalle and penne are acceptable substitutes.

Ingredients

  • 3 medium leeks, white and light green parts halved lengthwise, washed, and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices (about 5 cups); 3 cups roughly chopped dark green parts reserved
  • 1 pound asparagus, tough ends snapped off, chopped coarsely, and reserved; spears cut on bias into 1/2-inch-thick pieces
  • 2 cups frozen baby peas, thawed
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 4 teaspoons)
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh mint leaves
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated zest plus 2 tablespoons juice from 1 lemon
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Table salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound campanelle
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 ounce grated Parmesan cheese (about 1/2 cup), plus extra for serving
  • Ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. 1. Place dark green leek trimmings, asparagus trimmings, 1 cup peas, 2 teaspoons garlic, vegetable broth, and water in large saucepan. Bring to simmer over high heat, then lower heat to medium-low and gently simmer 10 minutes. While broth simmers, combine mint, chives, and lemon zest in small bowl; set aside.

    2. Strain broth through fine-mesh strainer into 8-cup measuring cup, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible (you should have 5 cups broth; add water as needed to measure 5 cups). Discard solids and return broth to saucepan. Cover and keep warm over low heat.

    3. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add sliced leeks and pinch salt; cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until leeks begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add asparagus pieces and cook until crisp-tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Add remaining 2 teaspoons garlic and pepper flakes; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add remaining cup peas and continue to cook 1 minute. Transfer vegetables to plate and set aside. Wipe out pot.

    4. Heat remaining 4 tablespoons oil in now-empty Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add pasta and cook, stirring frequently, until just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add wine and cook, stirring constantly, until absorbed, about 2 minutes.

    5. When wine is fully absorbed, add hot broth. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to boil. Cook, stirring frequently, until most of liquid is absorbed and pasta is al dente, 8 to 10 minutes.

    6. Remove pot from heat, stir in lemon juice, Parmesan, half of herb mixture, and vegetables. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately, passing Parmesan cheese and remaining herb mixture separately.

Technique

For Better Flavor, Cook Pasta Like Risotto

To deepen the overall flavor of our Spring Vegetable Pasta and add body to the sauce, we cooked the pasta like rice.

1. TOAST PASTA Sautéing the raw pasta in oil, as you would raw rice for risotto, gives it a golden brown color and nutty, rich flavor.

2. ADD WINE A cup of white wine introduced to the pot gets absorbed by the pasta, further contributing to the dish's flavor.

3. ADD BROTH Instead of using water, we boil the pasta in vegetable broth (simmered first with vegetable peelings to concentrate its flavor).

4. COOK UNTIL CREAMY As the pasta cooks, it gets coated in the creamy, starch-thickened broth. No need to add any actual cream.

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