Spring vegetable pasta

Let’s talk about zoodles. Also known as zucchini noodles. Or courgette noodles if you’re from the UK. Does that make them coodles? Coodles don’t sounds as cute as zoodles amiright?

To make zoodles, you simply run zucchini through a spiralizer to produce vegetable noodles shaped like spaghetti. Looks like pasta but no carbs. But here’s the thing, unless you have absolutely no taste buds, there’s no way you’ll eat a bowl of zoodles and think “Mmmm, pasta”. I’m all for healthy eating but why not just say you’re eating a bowl of zucchini vs. pretending you’re eating a bowl of spaghetti carbonara or fettucini alfredo.

That said, I’m not averse to using zoodles alongside pasta. When zoodles and real spaghetti join forces it’s a win-win. You still get to enjoy a little pasta (60 million Italians can’t be wrong…) with the added bonus of vegetables, more fibre, less carbs. Spring vegetable pasta reminiscent of pasta primavera by MainelyEating.com

Back in the 70/80’s there was a controversial (chefs hated it, diners loved it) dish known as pasta primavera that combined pasta with vegetables and a bunch of cream and pasta. Like a LOT of cream. With my haul of fresh asparagus, green beans, broccolini and of course, zucchini I decided to steal the idea of blanching the vegetables but skip the cream for a garlic and red pepper flake infused olive oil.

Not pictured – frozen peas (because I couldn’t find any fresh English peas) and green beans (forgot to take them out of the fridge for the picture but you’ll see them being cooked below!) Ingredients for pasta primavera

Cliffnotes (full recipe below): Gently heat garlic and red pepper flakes in olive oil. Blanch vegetables until they’re a few minutes away from being done, cool rapidly. Add fresh chopped tomatoes to oil. Cook pasta (and peas). Combine pasta, veggies and oil with a knob of butter, a generous handful of grated cheese and a splash of reserved pasta water and lemon juice to bring it all together.

Spring Vegetable Pasta

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy
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When figuring out the amount of vegetables you need, guestimate how much one person would eat and then multiply by four e.g. I would eat maybe 5-6 asparagus stalks so buy 20-24 depending on the thickness.

Ingredients:
6-8 oz pasta (see notes below)
~ 24 asparagus stalks (1-2 bundles depending on how much you like asparagus)
4 zucchini (spiralized or cut into thin noodles)
~ 1/2lb green beans
~1/2lb broccolini
2-4 tomatoes
3 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
1 tsp red pepper flakes (more or less according to your heat tolerance!)
1 cup frozen peas or fresh shelled peas
1 tbsp butter
~3 oz Parmigiano Reggiano (parmesan cheese)
1/2 lemon
Salt & Pepper

Optional to serve: a few halved cherry tomatoes, radish slices, chopped fresh herbs such as basil, flat leaf parsley, chives

Directions:
1. In a large pan (must be able to hold all vegetable and pasta), gently warm the olive oil.
2. Crush or finely mince/slice the garlic and add to the olive oil with the red pepper flakes, 1/4 tsp salt and a few twists of fresh black pepper, continue to cook over a low heat.
3. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Blanch the vegetables in batches, cooking until they’re almost done (don’t overcook, they’ll finish cooking in the sauce at the end). The exact times will depend on the size/thickness/age of the vegetables. As the vegetables are almost done, scoop them out into a colander to drain and run cold water over them (or use an ice bath) to stop the cooking process. Set each vegetable aside to drain on paper towels.
4. In between cooking the vegetables, dice the tomatoes and add them to the garlic/red pepper oil and cook over a medium heat with a generous pinch of salt and pepper.
5. Rinse vegetable pan, fill with fresh salted water and bring to the boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions. If using frozen peas, add to pasta water 90 seconds before the end. Before draining, carefully dip a mug into the pot to reserve some of the starchy cooking water. Drain pasta.
6. Add the drained vegetables, drained pasta, butter and cheese to the garlic infused oil and gently toss. Add a generous squeeze of lemon juice and a splash or more of the reserved pasta cooking water. Taste and add more salt and pepper as needed.

Serve with fresh chopped herbs, grated cheese and radish slices in warmed bowls or plates.

Pasta primavera without the cream, a light spring vegetable pasta dish

Helpful notes:

Serving sizes/servings per box should be indicated on the pasta packaging. Reduce the servings by as much or as little as you like. I usually allow 2oz of dried pasta per person. If I’m combining with zucchini noodles then I’ll allow 1 zucchini per person and reduce the pasta to 1oz per person.

If you don’t have a spiralizer, you can use a potato peeler to make zucchini ribbons which work well with pappardelle or tagliatelle.

You don’t *have* to blanch each type of vegetable separately but doing so enables you to pull them just before they’ve cooked. You could stagger the time you add them to the boiling water but only if you’re pretty good at estimating cooking times which will vary with the thickness/size of each vegetable.

Beware the viral videos going around showing you “one pot pasta primavera”, yes you can cook your pasta, water, vegetables, cream and butter in one pan all together but only if you want a mushy and starchy vegetable mess.

If you want the real pasta primavera experience or something more luxurious, add a big splash of heavy cream to the butter and cheese.

You can mess around with the vegetable content – fresh shelled peas are way better than frozen peas, consider sliced mushrooms, carrot batons, a handful of arugula or baby spinach or whatever is fresh!

Add sauteed shrimp or chicken if you want more protein with your dinner.

Serve on warmed plates/in warmed bowlsPasta with peas, asparagus, green beans, tomatoes and zucchini noodles

Lemony Ricotta Salata Pasta with Blistered Cherry Tomatoes and Pea Shoots

As the days get lighter, I find my cooking does too. During the cold dark days of winter, I can be found hunkering down in the kitchen, braising short ribs, simmering rich ragu, making hearty stews and soups and eating indulgent creamy pasta dishes. With the warmer weather and lighter evenings, I’m less inclined to spend hours in the kitchen and I want to take advantage of the colorful spring vegetables that appear at the farmers market.
Light summer pasta with blistered cherry tomatoes, pea shoots and ricotta salata in a lemony brothI spotted these delightful still-on-the-vine cherry tomatoes and started thinking about a light pasta dish with fresh spring/summer flavors. I saw ricotta salata on the cheese counter and that reminded me of Amanda Hesser’s lemony pasta recipe. I picked up fresh basil and pea shoots and headed home excited to see how they’d all come together.

The cherry tomatoes were carefully roasted in a blistering hot oven and as soon as they were cool enough to handle I slipped the skins off (you don’t have to do this but they’ll melt into the sauce easier and taste juicier). Chicken stock was bubbled to reduce down with a couple of smashed garlic cloves and lemon juice and a knob of butter swirled in to make a light and refreshing sauce. The pea shoots didn’t even see the inside of a pan, the heat of the pasta wilted them (arugula would also work well here) and the whole dish was showered with wafer thin slices of ricotta salata.


If you’ve never had ricotta salata you’re missing out. Ricotta salata is a hard white cured and pressed version of fresh ricotta with and a mild salty, nutty and milky flavor. It can be shaved or grated over salads, pastas and vegetable dishes.

Light summer pasta with blistered cherry tomatoes, pea shoots and ricotta salata

  • Servings: two
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
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Very loosely adapted from Amanda Hesser

Ingredients:

2 servings of your favorite pasta, I used Cipriani tagliatelle, it’s so light and thin
3 cups unsalted chicken broth
2 cloves of garlic – squished but not minced or completely crushed
Wedge of ricotta salata 2-4 oz
8-12 Cherry tomatoes, ideally on the vine
Splash of olive oil
1 large lemon or 2 small lemons
Bunch of basil – finely chopped (chiffonade) or torn
Pea shoots (can substitute in fresh peas or arugula or even baby spinach)
1 tbsp butter
Optional; thinly sliced radish for a crunchy garnish

Directions:

 

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet (ideally rimmed as the tomatoes can leak juice while cooking) with foil or parchment paper for easier clean up. Place cherry tomatoes on baking sheet, drizzle over a little olive oil and season.
2. Bake cherry tomatoes until blistered and skins are just starting to turn black. 10-20 minutes. Optional – once cool, gently slip the blistered skins off for a more elegant presentation.
3. While tomatoes are baking, over a high heat, bubble the unsalted chicken stock with the garlic until reduced by half. Reduce heat to lowest setting.
4. Put pan of salted water on to boil for pasta.
5. With a sharp knife or mandolin, slice the ricotta salata into paper thin slices (or crumble)
6. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and add to the reduced chicken broth. Squeeze in the juice of the lemon and the butter. Add the basil. Toss vigorously. Taste and add as much or as little salt and pepper as you like. I season this dish fairly agressively as it’ll really bring out the lemony flavors.
7. Line the warmed bowls with the pea shoots, add the pasta/pea shoots and add a couple of spoons of the broth. Add the ricotta salata, the cherry tomatoes and the sliced radish if using.. Enjoy!

Helpful info:

It’s a quick and easy swap of chicken stock to vegetable stock to make this dish vegetarian.

You don’t have to serve the cherry tomatoes on the vine, I just thought they looked prettier this way! Once I’d taken the picture, I popped them off the vine and smushed them into the sauce. Yum.

If you can’t find ricotta salata you could substitute parmigiano regiano or pecorino but it would be a completely different dish with much more cheese flavor.

If pea shoots aren’t in season you could add frozen peas to the pasta water for the last minute and then drain them with the pasta.

If you’d like a little more protein, add grilled shrimp (especially good with the lemony broth) or grilled chicken.

What do you enjoy eating to signal the start of summer? Fresh and light summer pasta with blistered cherry tomatoes, pea shoots and ricotta salata in the lemony herb broth

Arugula and Goat Cheese Pasta Recipe

I *just* had my first recipe request! How fun! A “recipe to improve the dating life of a random college student out in Washington, DC“! I racked my brains for the perfect dish that would be affordable on a student budget, relatively easy to cook but still feel special, and of course, be super tasty.

I was reminded of a pasta dish I used to regularly make (why did I stop?!?), I originally named it “If salad and pasta got together and had a baby…” but that sounds a little weird so Arugula and Goat Cheese Pasta it is. The peppery herbaceous flavor of the arugula cuts through the slippery pasta rich with the creamy goat cheese. Fun fact – arugula is known as rocket in the UK.

A creamy pasta without the cream! Peppery arugula, rich goat cheese and crispy bacon make for a great date night pasta recipe.

This is a very flexible recipe, if your date happens to be vegetarian you can easily skip the bacon (just start cooking the onions in a little olive oil and butter) and swap the chicken stock for vegetable stock and it’s still really delicious. If you’re fond of mushrooms you can add more (I usually do the full 10 oz – half regular white mushrooms and half whatever looks good in the store – chestnut, shitake, oyster). You can kick the taste up with thyme or parsley, pine nuts and a squeeze of lemon juice but if you don’t have those ingredients, it won’t ruin your date night.

Ingredients for Arugula and Goat Cheese pastaNot pictured – chicken stock, butter, optional – parmesan cheese, lemon and a small onion – because they wouldn’t fit 😉 If you have a long day of classes, you can get some of the prep done in advance the night before – finely chop the onion, mince the garlic, chop the mushrooms, grate the cheese and store them all separately in the fridge (wrap tightly in plastic wrap, foil or baggies)

Peppery baby arugula cuts the richness of the goat cheese in this simple yet elegant pasta dish.

If you’re an experienced cook, you can chop as you go but if you’re newer to cooking I’d recommend having everything prepped (onions, garlic, mushroom chopped, cheese grated/crumbled) to remove any stress. Bonus – if you’d like to cook together, you can assign mushroom chopping or cheese grating to make it into a team-effort dinner.

Cliffnotes: cook the bacon until crispy, remove and set aside, cook the onion in the bacon fat, add the mushrooms and cook until nutty and brown with a little garlic, remove and set aside. Add chicken stock and reduce by 50%. Add mushrooms back to pan. Add freshly cooked pasta (reserve cooking water!), butter, parmesan (if using) and toss. Add arugula, crumbled goat cheese and pine nuts (if using). Salt, pepper and a good squeeze of lemon juice. If dry, loosen with pasta water. Top with crumbled crispy bacon and a little more goat cheese.
How to make arugula and goat cheese pasta with bacon and pine nuts

And there are just enough breaks in the cooking for excellent conversation…

arugula and goat cheese pasta

  • Servings: two cuties on a date
  • Time: about 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
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Note all of the ingredients give an approximate range, if you like more bacon, use more bacon, if you’re ambivalent about mushrooms, use less 😉

Ingredients:

4-6 oz of bacon (preferably center cut which is less fatty)
1 small onion (or half a large onion)
5-10 oz of mushrooms (any combination of white, chestnut, shiitake)
1-2 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp butter (~1/4 of a stick)
2 cups unsalted chicken stock
1 bag of baby arugula (3-5 oz)
1 small log of plain goat cheese, usually 4oz
Your choice of dried pasta – linguine, fettucini, tagliatelle
Optional: fresh herbs (thyme or parsley), a lemon, pine nuts, small piece of parmesan cheese

Directions:

1. Chop the bacon into bite size pieces (kitchen shears make this much easier)
2. Chop the onion into a fine dice and crush the garlic in a garlic crusher (or slice as finely as possible)
3. Brush any dirt from the mushrooms and chop them into slices. Remove the woody stems from shiitake mushrooms if using.
4. Grate the parmesan cheese (if using), crumble the goat cheese into little pieces like small popcorn.
5. Put a large pot of water on to boil and add a good tablespoon of salt
6. In a large pan (large enough to eventually hold all of the ingredients AND the pasta), cook the bacon over a very low heat for a few minutes. The fat will start to render out and you can turn the heat up higher until the bacon reaches the desired level of crispness. Stir regularly to stop the bacon sticking.
7. Remove the bacon and set aside. Lower the heat and add the onions, cook until they are translucent (about 3-5 minutes), stirring regularly.
8. Add the mushrooms (salt and pepper too!) to the onions and continue to stir regularly over a medium heat. If your pan seems dry, you can add a glug of olive oil. Cook until the mushrooms are just starting to turn golden and then remove the mushroom/onion mix and set aside.
9. Add the chicken stock (don’t worry if there are a few pieces of mushroom or onion left in the pan, they’ll add more flavor) and turn the heat up high, stir to loosen any tasty brown bits in the bottom of the pan. Cook until the chicken stock is reduced to about half (about 5-10 minutes). Turn the heat way down to the lowest setting and add the mushrooms/onion mix back to the pan. Taste and add salt/pepper if necessary.
10. Put the pasta in the boiling water and cook according to package directions. Drain in a colander and try to save some of the cooking water (set a mug under the colander).
11. Add the pasta to the mushrooms, add a large knob of butter and parmesan (if using), toss vigorously (tongs or a couple of forks). If things seem dry, add a good glug of the reserved pasta water (the starchiness will help bind everything together).
12. Add 3/4 of the crumbled goat cheese, arugula, pine nuts (if using) and a good squeeze of lemon juice. Toss again. Add the bacon. Final toss.
13. Serve in warmed bowls/plates (from the oven on the lowest setting), with the rest of the crumbled goat cheese on top.

Excellent with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, NZ

Cooking tips:

Mushrooms are tricky little fungi, they usually go through a mushy stage when they’re officially cooked but not looking too appetizing. You can stop cooking at this stage and it won’t have a major adverse effect on your dish but if you can bear it, keep the heat high and stir regularly, watch the mushrooms like a hawk and you’ll be rewarded with a just browning/nutty tasting mushroom that will be absolutely delicious.

The last few steps all happen in a matter of seconds (adding the pasta, butter, parmesan, arugula, goat cheese, pine nuts) so having everything ready and bowls/plates warmed and ready to go will make your life easier.

Mouthwatering pasta recipe with nutty pan roasted mushrooms, peppery arugula, creamy goat cheese and crispy bacon.

Do we have any other cooking suggestions or recipe ideas for our college student? Will the cooking work out? More importantly, will there be a second date? Stay tuned…

If you have your own recipe requests, I’d love to hear from you. You can use the contact form above or email mainelyeatingblog @ gmail.com (remove the spaces!)