I think of this dish as the sad dish vegetarian’s are relegated to ordering at restaurants, when traveling. For some reason it popped into my mind the other night when I, as per usual, had random bits of vegetables to use up and a hungry teenager and husband to feed. Whatever you want to call it, it’s pasta with vegetables, a little cream sauce with a hint of lemon and plenty of fresh herbs. It really can be delicious! 🙂
I could live on salads alone these hot summer days but the rest of my family cannot and I’m guessing some of you are in the same boat. You can halve the amount of pasta noted below and have a very veg-heavy dish to please a variety of palates.
This dish was invented at the restaurant Le Cirque in New York City in the 70s and does not hale from Italy as the name would imply. It’s really also not limited to spring vegetables–though I look forward to making it next spring with asparagus, peas and more lemon than noted here. I imagine a late summer one with sweet peppers, corn, and cherry tomatoes. . . Have fun with it!
White sauce (bechamel) seems to have fallen out of favor but it’s a wonderful sauce and a little can go a long way in bringing together a big pot of pasta–and making that pasta (with tons of veg) something my kid will devour.
Happy cooking, stay cool and I’ll be back with a salad soon!
- vary the quantity of vegetables to suit your needs–I like a high ratio of veg to pasta
- double the cream sauce if you want a saucier, richer dish–this amount just coats everything and highlights the veg
- add diced, cooked chicken
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/3 cups milk
1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
Zest of half a lemon, or of the whole lemon if you’re a lemon fan
1 cup grated Parmesan, divided
For the Vegetables
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups vegetables, cut into similar-sized pieces (broccoli, carrots, peas, zucchini/summer squash, fennel, sweet peppers, halved cherry tomatoes etc. )
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 lb pasta such a penne, lumache (above), fusilli, small to medium shells
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil, parsley or a combination
Scallions greens, thinly sliced (optional–I happened to have some that needed using in the above version)
1. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking constantly for about 2-3 minutes. Whisk in the milk, mustard, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook, whisking often, for about 7-8 minutes or until thickened. Whisk in the lemon zest and half the Parmesan.
2. Heat the olive oil in the largest skillet you have over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute for a few minutes. Add the remainder of the vegetables (if you’re using some cherry tomatoes, add those at the end of the cooking time–you don’t want saucy vegetables), salt and saute until just tender, about 5-10 minutes depending on what kind of veg and how much you’re using. Turn off the heat before you think they’re quite tender if they’re going to sit for a while before finishing the dish.
3. Cook the pasta until al dente in well-salted, boiling water. If your cream sauce is quite thick, reserve 1/4 cup of hot pasta cooking water and whisk it into the sauce. Drain pasta and toss with vegetables, sauce and herbs. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt/pepper. Serve, topped with remaining Parmesan.