Recipe: Cream-less Pasta Primavera

During the six months leading up to my wedding, I watched my diet like a hawk. But I love to eat, so there were inevitably days when I craved a big bowl of creamy pasta.

For all the brides (and grooms) out there watching their figures – who I’m sure feel the same way – this is my version of cream-less pasta primavera, adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Spring Vegetable Pasta recipe.

What’s amazing about this recipe is that there is no cream in the sauce, but it still has a rich creamy texture because you cook the pasta like risotto (genius!) It’s also packed with tons of vegetables.

So yes, it’s true - you can have your cake and eat it too!

1 pound crimini mushrooms
2 leeks
1 pound asparagus
2 medium size zucchini or summer squash
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
3 cloves of garlic cloves
2 tablespoons minced fresh mint leaves
½ teaspoon lemon zest
Juice from ½ lemon
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound campanelle (or other short pasta)
1 cup white wine
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
1 cup (or more!) grated Parmesan cheese

I love to use my dutch oven for this recipe, but you can use whichever heavy-bottomed pot you have.

First, prep the vegetables:

Slice the crimini mushrooms. dice the light green and white parts of the leeks, slice spears into 1/2 inch pieces (don’t forget to snap the tough ends of the asparagus off and discard before dicing) and dice zucchini into 1/2 inch pieces.

Tip 1: to prepare leeks, cut off dark green tops and discard. My favorite way to wash leeks (and I’ve tried lots of different ways) is to halve them lengthwise, keeping bottoms in tact, and wash layers under running water.

Tip 2: if you’re good at chopping vegetables, chop while you cook to cut down on time! I’m not though… so I prep everything ahead :)

Cook mushrooms in 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat until brown (about 5-7 mins.) Once the mushrooms are brown, add one clove of minced garlic and a pinch of salt; cook for 1 more min until fragrant. Transfer mushrooms to bowl and set aside.

Tip: don’t salt the mushrooms until the very end or they won’t brown!

Add one more tablespoon of oil to the pot. Add diced leeks and cook for 1-2 mins. Once they begin to brown, add asparagus spears and cook for 1-2 more mins. Then add zucchini and cook another 1-2 mins (4-6 mins total.)

Add two cloves of minced garlic and season with salt and pepper; cook 1 more min until fragrant.

Transfer vegetables to same bowl as mushrooms and set aside.

Wipe pot with paper towel. Add 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Once shimmering, add dry pasta and toast for 4-5 minutes until they begin to brown. It will smell deliciously toasty in your kitchen!

Add white wine (a good one you’d drink!) and cook, stirring constantly, until it’s all absorbed.  I failed to take a photo of the wine – so here’s a stock photo :) This is actually one of my favorite California white wines to cook with.

Once the wine is absorbed, add stock and water to the pot. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to boil. Cook, stirring frequently, until most of the stock/water is absorbed (about 8-10 mins) – just like a risotto!

Tip: Taste the pasta when it’s close to done. If it’s not yet al dente, add 1/2 cup of hot water and keep stirring until absorbed and try again. Repeat if needed.

 While the pasta is cooking, mince mint leaves and zest lemon. Grab the peas and cheese – yum!

Once most of the liquid is absorbed (you’ll still want a little in the bottom of the pot because this is the sauce!), stir in the vegetables, peas, mint, lemon zest, the juice from half a lemon and the Parmesan – one cup is usually enough, but add as little or as much as you’d like. Add salt and pepper to taste if needed.

Sprinkle just a little more Parmesan on top before serving and ENJOY!!!

For family, I love to bring the whole pot of pasta to the table. There’s something homey and decadent about everyone tucking into one big pot.

When we have guests, I like to serve the pasta in a big white dish with a little lemon and mint garnish. It’s elegant, and perfect for company!

I’m a firm believer that you should make every recipe your own. Here are some variation ideas:

  • Make vegetarian by using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth, or vegan by leaving out the cheese.
  • Add your own favorite vegetables – spinach, broccoli, or cherry tomatoes.
  • For crunch, add some pine nuts or slivered almonds.
  • For protein, add grilled chicken, shrimp or chickpeas.
Bon appetite!

Hannah x