Pasta Estate

September 7, 2010 at 9:41 am (B_minus (2 stars, okay), Cook's Illustrated, Derek's faves, Pasta, Starches, Summer recipes, Vegetable dishes)

Yeah, I know.  Pasta Estate (pronounced eh-STAH-tay) doesn’t roll off the tongue quite like Pasta Primavera.  But it’s Summer, not Spring.  What can I do?

My memories of  pasta primavera are extremely positive.  I don’t actually have any specific memories of  eating pasta primavera in my youth, but nonetheless I associate it with culinary perfection.  My memories (despite being hazy) tell me that pasta primavera is rich and delicious and satisfying, and a real treat.  Every couple years I try making it, and it never lives up to my memories, but I keep trying.  This weekend I had some leftover cream, and in trying to figure out what to do with it I thought of pasta primavera.  But it’s summer not spring, so I decided to make Pasta Estate instead.  I found two primavera recipes on the Cook’s Illustrated website.  Both recipes called for the same vegetables:  asparagus, frozen peas, mushrooms, tomatoes, zucchini, green beans, and basil.  All of those vegetables are common in late summer except for asparagus.  I thought about using frozen asparagus but decided to sub in broccoli instead.  I bet cauliflower would also be nice.  I also added in two grated carrots, for color, and because my memories of pasta primavera always include grated carrots. One of the recipes was a “regular” version (6 Tbs. butter and 1/2 cup heavy cream) and the other was a “lighter” version (2 Tbs. butter and 4 Tbs. olive oil).   I decided to mix the two–use my cream but cut down on the butter.

The cook’s illustrated recipe has you put on two pots of water to boil:  6 quarts of water for the pasta and 3 quarts of water in a large stockpot to blanch the veggies.  The veggies are blanched then dunked in ice water.  In the same large saucepan you saute the mushrooms in butter, then add the tomatoes, then the cream.  Then the whole sauce is simmered for four minutes.   I cut the butter from 3 Tbs. to 1 Tbs, and I forgot to simmer for four minutes to thicken the liquid.  Finally, I added 1/2 cup of vegetable broth to the sauce (which is called for by the light recipe), but this is supposed to be a substitute for the cream (actually, it’s supposed to be chicken broth).  Since I was adding cream I shouldn’t have added vegetable broth.  Whoops!  So I ended up with a very thin, soupy pasta primavera.

The next step is to saute the blanched vegetables with more butter and garlic, in a large skillet.  Again, I cut the butter from 3 Tbs. to 1 Tbs.

Finally, you cook the pasta and add it and the vegetables and the sauce all back into the large stockpot that you cooked the pasta in.  Minced basil and lemon juice are added and then the dish is ready.

So in the end you end up with three dirty pots, which seems excessive.  One way to reduce the number of pots used would be to saute the veggies in the stockpot, but then maybe the pasta would get cold while it sits?  You could also skip the veggie-sauteeing step altogether, and just add the veggies to the sauce directly.  Or maybe three pots are just required?  Any opinions?

The dish came out reasonably well, despite the saucy-mixup.  The vegetables were nicely cooked and the flavor of the dish was good.  It was a bit messy to eat because the sauce was so thin, but still tasty.  Derek really loved it.  I was worried about there being too much pasta compared to the number of vegetables, but in the end it turned out okay.  The recipe calls for egg fettuccine but I used just a regular fettuccine.  I wonder what the recipe would be like with whole wheat pasta?

Cook’s Illustrated says to peel the plum tomatoes using a vegetable peeler.  I tried it and it was a pain, so I didn’t peel most of my tomatoes.  Yes, there were some bits of tomato skin floating in the final dish, but they didn’t really bother me.  I’m sure I would have gotten thrown off top chef, but no one at my house complained.

I cooked this for dinner for 6 people.  We started with a bowl of roasted carrot soup.  Cook’s Illustrated says that this recipe serves six people, but we didn’t finish the pasta.  I gave everyone a small portion for firsts and Derek was the only one who was still hungry enough to have seconds.  So I ended up with about two servings left, which we ate for lunch the next day.  So with a hearty first course I think this recipe could be stretched to serve 8 as a main course.

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