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Pasta Primavera

Lemon Herb Butterfly Pasta


Spring is in the air – the trees are budding, new flowers are popping up on a daily basis and bumblebees and butterflies are beginning to visit. What a beautiful setting for Mother’s Day! I wanted to make something special for Mother’s Day that echoes the delicacy of early spring. One dish that came to mind was the classic Pasta Primavera made popular in the 1970’s at New York City’s Le Cirque Restaurant. The Le Cirque recipe is made with heavy cream, butter, chicken broth and cheese resulting in an alfredo-type cheese sauce coating the vegetables served over spaghetti. That seems a bit dense for a springtime recipe so I came up with my own version… a light lemon-herb sauce coating gently sautéed vegetables and tossed with farfalle pasta.

“Primavera” means “spring” in Italian and “farfalle” translates as “butterflies” although we often refer to the pasta shape as bowties. The vegetables can be thinly cut with a vegetable peeler or mandoline slicer and, if you want to make the dish extra special, use tiny cookie cutters to form the vegetable slices into flowers or even into small “polka dots.” Your mom will be absolutely delighted at your beautiful, light flavorful dish!

1 pound farfalle (bowtie) pasta

For the vegetables*:
Extra virgin olive oil for sautéing
3 carrots, thinly sliced
1 yellow summer squash, thinly sliced
1 small zucchini, thinly sliced
2 bell peppers, seeded and thinly sliced
1 small onion, thinly sliced

For the sauce:
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Juice and zest from 1 lemon
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon butter, melted

½ cup fresh herbs, finely minced (your choice of mild herbs such as parsley, cilantro, marjoram and chives)
12 grape tomatoes, halved
½ cup green pea shoots or microgreens (optional)
¼ cup grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain and set aside, keeping the pasta warm.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan and gently sauté the vegetables until soft but not browned.

While the pasta and vegetables are cooking, heat the olive oil, lemon juice and zest, minced garlic and butter in a small saucepan until warm.

In a large heatproof serving bowl, toss the pasta, vegetables and sauce. Add the minced herbs and toss well to combine. Gently stir in the halved grape tomatoes, pea shoots (or microgreens). Top with grated cheese, and salt and pepper to taste.

*Feel free to use whatever vegetables you enjoy the most including asparagus spears, snow peas or sugar snap peas and a combination of your favorite fresh herbs. If you prefer you can add a bit more oil or butter to make the sauce thinner.