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Pasta Primavera, lllustrated

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Grab your tote bag (and maybe your sketchbook) because, every other week, Sharon Hwang of My Cooking Diary is bringing us along for her adventures at her Northern California farmers market—and then back in her kitchen.

Today: The pasta to showcase spring’s early bounty.

According to Chez Panisse chef Cal Peternell in his book Twelve Recipes, pasta primavera is an American invention. A spring dish with an array of vegetables tossed with pasta and cream, it’s hard not to love. It’s also a perfect dish with all the beautiful early vegetables appearing at the farmers market right now.

More: Cal's essential kitchen tools.

The other day on New York Times Cooking, this recipe of Pasta Primavera with Asparagus and Peas by Melissa Clark caught my eye. I made the dish with butter as the recipe calls for, and I made it again with extra-virgin olive oil instead, which turned out very tasty as well. I've had all the good intentions of making my own fresh pasta, but just haven’t gotten around to it yet, so I found some dried egg tagliatelle at the nearby Healdsburg SHED. It was perfectly delicate and silky for this dish—I’d suggest using something similar.

When I make this recipe again, here’s how I’ll go about it: Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add salt. Meanwhile slice up your vegetables into smaller pieces, or leave the tiny ones whole. Heat a skillet over medium heat, add some olive oil, and cook the vegetables for a few minutes until they’re just tender but not mushy. Stir in some finely sliced garlic (or even better, green garlic!) and cook for another minute. Season with salt and pepper.

Cook your pasta of choice in the boiling water until al dente. Fettuccine, tagliatelle, or even farfalle all work well. Toss the drained pasta with vegetables, crème fraîche, grated Parmigiano Reggiano, and freshly chopped herbs. Add a splash of pasta water to loosen up the sauce if needed. I like mine seasoned with lots of black pepper and a pinch of Maldon salt—plus more Parmesan shavings at the table. 

A final word of caution from Cal: Show some restraint and don't throw in every vegetable; try sticking to two or three kinds. Peas, asparagus, spring onion; spinach, carrots, and cauliflower; zucchini, cherry tomatoes, and basil are some of his recommendations. Wise words.

What to serve alongside? You don't necessarily need anything, besides a hunk of Parmigiano Reggiano to shave atop. We made a simple salad of little gem lettuces, radishes, lemon zest, and Meyer lemon vinaigrette—to sneak in more of spring.

Tell us: What are your favorite vegetables for pasta primavera?

Illustrations and photos by Sharon Hwang

Tags: Asparagus, Sugar Snap Pea, Vegetable, Weeknight Cooking, Farmers Markets, Illustrations