Pasta Primavera with Pesto Napoletana

As its name suggests, this dish is particularly welcome in spring, when an abundance of fresh vegetables appear in the garden and in the marketplace. It’s also a time when I want to eat lighter fare; and this dish satisfies that craving beautifully. Since the types of vegetables you use can vary, this dish can be made all year round, not just in spring.

1. Blanch the vegetables: Bring a large pot of water (about 5 quarts) to a boil. Add the broccoli, carrots and celery and cook for 8 minutes. Remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon, reserving the cooking liquid. Drain the vegetables thoroughly and set aside.

2. Add 1 teaspoon of salt to the reserved vegetable cooking water and bring to a boil for cooking the pasta.

3. While the pasta water is coming to a boil, prepare the vegetables: Warm the oil in a medium skillet and add the garlic and the remaining ½ teaspoon salt. Cook and stir for 2 minutes or until garlic releases its fragrance. Add the broccoli, carrots and celery and snow peas and toss gently as you cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or just until they have absorbed the flavors from the garlic and oil.

4. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to package directions or until al dente.

5. While the pasta cooks prepare the pesto sauce as recipe directs.

6. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid. Add the reserved cooking liquid to the pesto in the blender, if needed.

7. Toss the drained pasta with the pesto sauce in a large bowl. Add the pasta to the skillet with the vegetables and toss to mix. Serve immediately.

Other types of pasta can be used instead of rotelli. Try rotini, penne, fusilli, bow ties, shells, orrechiette, or campanella. Other vegetables can be used instead of those listed above. Try 1 cup fresh or frozen peas, 1 cup trimmed, sliced mushrooms, 1 cup diced yellow squash or zucchini or 1 ½ cups coarsely chopped asparagus. Instead of pesto sauce, toss the pasta with sweet Roasted Garlic and serve with grated Pecorino Romano or crumbled gorgonzola.

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