About a year ago, my sister Michele had the idea to write a short cookbook called Gatherings (⬅️ to download a free PDF version or to purchase a hardcopy). We thought surely the pandemic would be over soon and it would be time to have big family gatherings again. We put together our favorite family recipes, whipped up a few new ones and got the book ready to go. Who knew it would be another year before those gatherings could actually happen?
Finally this spring, Mark and I decided to headed east for a respite at Michele’s place on the Delaware River in New Hope. With everyone in the family now fully vaccinated, our long-awaited family gathering could become a reality at last. Besides being a very special time with cousins we had not seen in over a year, there was the extra bonus of reconnecting with our cousin Michael and his wonderful wife Noreen. These parties are such a big part of our family tradition that they have been among the things I’ve missed the most.
We prepared a modified version of the classic 1970’s Italian-American dish, Pasta Primavera. There’s a humorous story in the NYT Cooking pages about its origins (a death match between French and Italian cuisine). Primavera means springtime in Italian but this dish is really about a state of mind. Combine really good farm-fresh vegetables and excellent pasta and “just like that!” the magic happens. We took the additional step of roasting the vegetables to bring out their deep flavors. It worked really well and this simple dish can really be made all year round. Just find the best, freshest in-season veggies and the stage is set. As an extra credit step, make some fresh pasta to go along with this dish. For our first attempt we made tagliatelle, which went terrifically with the seasonal veggies.
In a normal year, this dish captures the spirit of re-birth and the renewal of springtime. But for this year, it has extra meaning as we all emerge from a long, dark season away from family and friends. The last year helped us realize the importance of family and close friends, that being incessantly busy is not a virtue, that cooking for ourselves or even baking can be really comforting, and that relaxed quiet can be wonderful. Home gardening and jigsaw puzzles (I’ve done at least 30) have made a huge comeback, along with going on long walks with a loved one to heal the soul. Going back to “normal” as we knew it is not an option. We’ve all learned too much about ourselves and the world around us to go back to the “old normal”. Here’s hoping that we can all appreciate what we’ve learned while relishing renewed opportunities for the sorts of gatherings we’ve been waiting for much too long!Print
Pasta Primavera with Roasted Vegatables
- An assortment of in-season vegetables that can be quickly roasted (go for a colorful mix!)
- 1 lb. thin asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lenghts
- 2 pints sweet cherry tomatoes
- 4 yellow zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch wide 1/4 rounds
- 1 purple onion, medium sliced
- 1/4 lb. baby mushrooms (baby bella, shiitake, etc.), if large slice in half
- 4 leeks, trimmed, cleaned and washed in cut in 1/2-inch wide 1/2 rounds
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Black pepper
- 1 lb. good quality dried strand pasta (such as bucatini, chitarra, spaghetti, etc.)
- 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
- Grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese to taste–and extra for the table when serving
- Chopped parsley or basil for a nice topping
- Preheat oven to 400℉.
- Prepare the vegetables as indicated. You want to get them all bitesized but they will shrink considerably when you roast them.
- Spread the vegetables out on a sheet pan and liberally coat with olive oil, salt and pepper.
- Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes, tossing them once with a spatula.
- While the vegetables are roasting, prepare a pot for the pasta over a high flame. When boiling, add a big handful of salt. Have a heatproof cup nearby to hold about 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.
- Cook the pasta per the package directions to just al dente. The pasta will continue to cook when added to the vegetables. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water, then drain the pasta.
- In a large skillet over medium heat, add the drained pasta, the roasted vegetables and any accumulated juices. Add the butter and gently stir to achieve a sauce-like texture. Add a little pasta water to loosen it up.
- When you’re happy with the consistency, add some cheese and stir into the mixture.
- Top with chopped basil or parsley and serve with more cheese.