Spring Garden Pasta

   

Living in Texas it can sometimes be a little difficult to look forward to the oncoming summer, what with its droughts and relentless heat waves. That anxiety is quickly diffused once I glimpse the new crop of garden fresh veggies at the grocery store. Here is a crisp, healthy pasta dish to embrace spring’s bounty and warmer months.   

Spring Garden Pasta

This is a wonderful dish to prepare if you’ve blacked out in a farmer’s market and awoken in your kitchen to find yourself staring hazily at mountains of fresh produce. The first time I prepared this I was craving pasta primavera, but wasn’t wanting something heavy. I cut calories by removing half of the pasta and replacing it with loads of vegetables. Serving the dish slightly warm rather than piping hot really allows the texture and flavors of the vegetables to shine. 

Spring Garden Pasta

Spring Garden Pasta
Serves 4
A healthier pasta dish absolutely full of crisp, fresh veggies.
Print
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 3 tablespoons salted butter
  2. 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  3. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  4. 2 broccoli crowns, cut into florets (about 2-3 cups)
  5. 1 cup carrots, sliced
  6. 1 cup frozen green peas
  7. 10-12 cherry tomatoes, halved
  8. 2 tablespoons flour
  9. 1/2 cup milk (I used flax milk)
  10. 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  11. 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
  12. 1/4 cup fresh basil
  13. 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  14. 1 1/2 cups Maffei fussili (or whatever pasta you like)
Instructions
  1. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in high sided skillet. Add minced garlic and sliced mushrooms, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and cover until the mushrooms release their juices.
  2. Stir in chopped broccoli and carrots, cover and let steam for about 7-8 minutes until crisp tender. Transfer veggies to a bowl (reserve any liquid in the pan if there is some) and leave covered while you prepare the sauce.
  3. Meanwhile cook pasta in well salted water according to package directions. I used a refrigerated pasta by Maffei which is 180 calories per 1/2 cup. You want it perfectly al dente or just a hair shy of al dente - you want the pasta to stand up to the crisp veggies.
  4. While pasta is cooking - in the same pan you cooked veggies in melt the other tablespoon of butter. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of flour - it will be very thick. Let cook for a minute or two to cook off the raw flour taste and then add milk, black pepper, fresh thyme. Remove from heat and whisk well.
  5. Transfer pasta plus 1/2-3/4 cup (depending on how thick you want your sauce to be) of the pasta cooking water to the pan along with all of the veggies, the green peas, and your grated parmesan. Toss well and cover to let the peas warm through. This will also slightly cool down the pasta and veggies. This is ok as the slightly cooler pasta maintains the fresh flavor and texture of the tomatoes.
  6. When the peas are warm add fresh basil and chopped tomatoes, toss well and serve immediately. Ideally your pasta water should have been salted well enough that you wouldn't need additional salt, but feel free to add more if needed.
Calories
  1. 358 calories for 1/4 of the pan as I've prepared it.
Variation
  1. Cooking the mushrooms in a bit of dry white wine (maybe 2 ounces) adds lovely flavor to the dish.
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Spring Garden Pasta

 


Asparagus & Green Pea Risotto

   

I think quite a few people are intrigued by the vegetarian lifestyle. A really common question that arises when people learn I don’t eat meat is, “Well what DO you eat?” There is a misconception that vegetarians survive on microgreens, tofu, and a cocktail of multivitamins… but in my experience this is rarely the case. Since becoming a vegetarian I still enjoy almost all of the dishes I loved when I ate meat – chili, tacos, stew, biscuits & gravy, pot pie – I just prepare them a little differently now. There are also a remarkable number of everyday entrees that are veggie-friendly without any ingredient changes – macaroni and cheese for instance. Or in this case… risotto! Not quite so easy to find in restaurants due to the fact that it’s usually simmered with a meat-based stock, but that is a great example of one of the minor adjustments you can make in a recipe that doesn’t affect the quality of the finished dish. You could even take it a step further and easily make it vegan by omitting the Parmesan and cooking with olive oil instead of butter. It will still be creamy and flavorful and awesome.

 

Asparagus & Green Pea Risotto

Many people dread the idea of cooking risotto from scratch because it requires a certain level of dedication. Sure it’s not a simple crock pot recipe that you can toss together and ignore for an hour, but I think the effort of risotto cooking is a little blown out of proportion. If you make risotto you’re going to be actively cooking for most of the process – but don’t let that deter you from giving it a try. The focus needed is minimal (whirling a spoon around while watching the TV in the other room) and the outcome is so worth it. Risotto is one of the ultimate comfort foods and it can be as rustic or as elegant as you like. Maybe you prefer a soupier consistency or maybe you want a pile of rich, starchy goodness that you can mound up on a fork. There is a lot of room for play once you have the basic technique down.  Just make sure that before you start you have your stock warmed up and nearby so you can easily ladle it into the rice. I use the two front burners on my stove – one for the stock and the other for the risotto. Ready to try it? Of course you are!

Asparagus & Green Pea Risotto

Asparagus & Green Pea Risotto
Serves 5
Creamy, comforting risotto – it’s not as hard as you think!
Print
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
40 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
40 min
Ingredients
  1. 5 cups warm vegetable stock (I only ended up using 4 while cooking, but better to err on the side of caution)
  2. 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  3. 1/2 small onion, diced
  4. 3 cloves garlic, minced
  5. 1 1/2 cups uncooked arborio rice
  6. 1/4 cup white wine
  7. 2 cups chopped fresh asparagus
  8. 1 cup frozen green peas
  9. 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  10. 1/4 cup good quality parmesan cheese, grated
  11. 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  12. 1/2 cup toasted walnuts
  13. 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg, optional
  14. Salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a high sided skillet and cook onions and garlic until warm and fragrant. Stir in arborio rice and allow to cook for a couple minutes to absorb the flavors in the pan.
  2. Pour white wine over the rice, stir well, and cook until liquid is absorbed.
  3. Add 1/4 cup of your vegetable stock and cook until absorbed, giving it a good stir every now and then. Whenever the liquid has almost absorbed (don’t let it get dry) into the rice it is time to add another 1/4 cup of stock. You will repeat this process until the rice is al dente.
  4. While the risotto simmers away you can cook up your asparagus. Melt about a teaspoon of butter in a nonstick pan, toss your chopped asparagus with it, and cook 8-10 minutes. It should still be bright green with a little bit of bite to it. Turn the heat off.
  5. Stir frozen green peas into the asparagus and cover. The residual warmth of the asparagus will thaw and cook the green peas while the chill from the green peas will keep the asparagus from continuing to cook in the pan. It works out great.
  6. When the rice is done (taste it to be sure, it took about 20-25 minutes for me) stir in the additional tablespoon of butter, parmesan cheese, cooked veggies, parsley, walnuts, and any additional seasoning. You may find you don’t need to add salt if the sodium content of your stock is high.
Calories
  1. 395
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Asparagus & Green Pea Risotto